We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.


You suck at chemistry and biology yet dream of being a doctor. You wish you weren’t such a skeptic, but you can’t help but doubt the legitimacy of any college degree offered via spam. Your beloved pet cat, Figgaro, has just been disemboweled by a struggling butcher and put on sale with a tag reading “feline 3.15/lb.” At this point, the only thing you have going for you is your preternatural ability to manipulate paper. Have you considered the growing field of origami surgery? Sorry to get your hopes up, but such a vocation does not, in fact, exist. It’s a metaphor for writing that McSweeney’s contributor Salvador Plascencia plays with in his debut novel, The People of Paper. Antonio, the origami surgeon, discovers his calling after Figgaro’s grisly demise—and 33 paper cuts. He’s one of a number of the book’s fantastical characters, which include a runaway-saint-turned-wrestler named Santos; “Baby Nostradamus”; a lime addict; and her father, who leads a band of east-of-L.A. carnation pickers in a war against Saturn. Lost yet? I suppose it would be helpful to know that Saturn is in fact Plascencia, and the war has started because he’s been taking out his frustrations over his lady friend’s recent departure by visiting upon his characters bee stings, burns, and paper cuts. Speaking of paper cuts, watch out for Mercedes de Papel, a seductive creation of Antonio’s who’s best avoided in the heat of passion, if you get my drift. Plascencia reads at 7 p.m. Monday, June 6, at Olsson’s Books & Records, 418 7th St. NW. Free. (202) 638-7610. (Chris Hagan)