I’ll Sell You a Dog

Juan Pablo Villalobos, trans. from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey. And Other Stories, $15.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-908276-74-2
The latest slice of Mexican life from Villalobos (Quesdillas) is narrated by a 78-year-old onetime artist and full-time drunk known only as Teo, more renowned for his dog-meat tacos than his art, who retires to a cockroach-infested apartment in Mexico City. But, as in Villalobos’s previous novels, the plot is secondary to depicting the community, the comings and goings of the local eccentrics who congregate around the narrator’s building to drink and gossip: there’s the literary salon, which is inexplicably convinced that Teo is writing a great novel, the paranoid anarchist greengrocer called Juliet with whom Teo is mildly smitten, and a Mormon missionary from Utah named Willem Heda who finds meaning in the extermination of cockroaches. After a local dog dies, Teo becomes the leading suspect and amuses himself by matching wits with the main investigator, a would-be writer with a papaya-shaped head; Teo even goes so far as to enlist another local (a young Maoist named Mao) in the infiltration of the Society for the Protection of Animals. Meanwhile, Teo mourns for what he’s lost—various dogs come and gone, his mother and sister, both killed in the 1985 earthquake—and applies to life the lessons of art (a copy of Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory is his bible) until it dawns on him he may be writing a novel after all. Villalobos is a kind of miniature Proust, and the affable I’ll Sell You A Dog finds lost time not in grand narratives but in the idle chatter of neighbors. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 06/06/2016
Release date: 08/01/2016
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