“The Story of My Teeth”: An Amusing Tale of a Man who Reveres Teeth
“The Story of My Teeth” written by Valeria Luiselli, is a whimsical novel centered around the character Gustavo “Highway” Sanchez Sanchez who is a renowned auctioneer, specializing in selling old teeth purportedly from celebrity mouths such as Plato and Virginia Woolf. To Gustavo, teeth embody a person’s soul and status. To elevate his own social status, Gustavo purchases and implants Marilyn Monroe’s teeth into his own partially edentulous mouth. He believes Monroe’s teeth physically represent her fame and significance and therefore, he now possesses that importance as well. In fact, halfway through the novel, when Gustavo is drugged and robbed of all his possessions, the singular, most crushing blow to Gustavo’s ego is that his Marilyn Monroe dental implants have been extracted.
The novel itself is written in installments, rather than one contiguous story, with multi-media images and maps scattered throughout. This playful narrative style provides a smart and hilarious outlook on the dental-obsessed Gustavo’s life. To further emphasize the importance of teeth in the novel, each chapter is opened by a dental-related proverb or quote such as Don Quixote’s “Each tooth in the head of a man is worth more than a diamond”. As a dental student, it was fascinating to read of a character who idolizes and covets teeth like someone would a precious stone. Gustavo’s adoration of teeth made me proudly reflect on the importance of the dental profession. For some, teeth are purely functional or perhaps they’re not thought of at all, but for Gustavo and others, teeth are a status symbol and part of one’s soul. This novel was a reminder that, as dental professionals, we are responsible for respecting and understanding that teeth and one’s relationship to them are personal and unique.
This post was contributed by Lotte Martin, Sponsorship and Fundraising Chair at ASDA District 2 and student at Columbia University College of Dental Medicine ('23).