cover image Planes Flying Over a Monster: Essays

Planes Flying Over a Monster: Essays

Daniel Saldaña París, trans. from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney and Philip K. Zimmerman. Catapult, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-646-22231-5

Novelist París (Ramifications) reflects in these striking essays on the complicated relationship between place and identity. Traversing the cities “that have marked my life,” the author explores in the title essay how he spent his 20s trying to make it as a writer in Mexico City before his life briefly unraveled there. In “The Madrid Orgy,” París recounts a disastrous party he threw for his college girlfriend and a sophisticated group of intellectuals he was trying to impress, and muses on the perspective afforded by time and age (“Literature has such miracles: one can return to a scene from the past and suddenly be able to observe it with the eyes of an onlooker; a witness capable of compassion and laughter”). Throughout, París casts a perceptive and compassionate eye on his preoccupation with alcohol and drugs as a means of dissociation (“I observed the advance of my alcoholism with tenderness, as others watch the growth of the child”), while keeping the focus on what it means to belong to a place, to create a self, and to attempt to record that self on paper. These electric essays linger in the mind. (Aug.)