Here is another witty book from the sharp pen of Juan Pablo Villalobos; I’ll Sell You A Dog [High Wycombe: And Other Stories, 2016]. Last time, three years ago, the main ingredient was quesadillas, sometimes without cheese. This time it’s tacos but don’t ask what’s in them. Translator Rosalind Harvey does deliver the full flavour of the prose, however. The publisher’s blurb says it is about ‘everything that can be done to fend off the boredom of retirement and old age, while still holding a beer.’
Our witty, elderly (but younger than me!) narrator has wangled his way into a block of retirement apartments where all the other residents have been dragooned into a reading group by Francesca who presides over the daily salon in the lobby. She believes he is writing a novel and therefore should be in the group. He denies it totally. He is a retired taco seller; not an author. However, he does seem to read and enjoy Aesthetic Theory by Theodor Adorno as well as his Notes to Literature; well-regarded both but generally only read by academics. And then the literary salon is working its way through Marcel Proust. Most peculiar! But also very, very funny right from the outset as our hero recalls the death of the family dog.
My mother died in 1985, in the earthquake. The dog beat her to it by over forty years and in his haste he never discovered how the Second World War ended: he swallowed a pair of nylon tights, incredibly long ones, as long as my father’s secretary’s legs.
The book is, in essence, the story of the battle with Francesca and covers not only literature but also painting, dreams and revolutionary politics – and a Mormon missionary. Quite a few cockroaches die in the course of writing this book and, alas, at least one more dog. Literary scholars will say it it ‘postmodern’. All of the characters are wonderful oddballs and the whole concoction should be washed down with a beer and a chaser of tequila. Another highly recommended offering from an enterprising publisher and their gifted author.