Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Beauty Salon

We've discussed the Hair Emergency Room and the Beauty Hospital. Today, the Beauty Hospice.

Last week, on a walk, I ended up in my favorite neighborhood bookstore, Unnameable Books. Unnameable is perfect: small and clean and perfectly organized, with carts of dollar books out front. (So many of the beauty books in my collection have been bought from such racks; the only people who seem to want them are you and me.) Inside, there is a mix of used and new, and an excellent selection of graphic novels. Often, there is also the owner, Adam, behind the counter and ready to make spot-on recommendations.

As I wandered the stacks, considering an early Ishiguro, something caught my eye from the shelf of staff picks. My head turned with a reptilian click, and I came face to face with this little book, Beauty Salon, by Mario Bellatin.

I have a pink chair just like those on the cover; I'm writing to you from that chair right now! Inside, I was delighted to find an eerie tale of a beautician turned caretaker. In some possibly futuristic city, an unnamed plague has taken hold, and the salon has become a place for the dying. Recently translated from Spanish, the prose is spare and lovely, and the story manages to leave many questions unanswered, but in a satisfying way.

Here's a bit about decorating the salon with tanks of fish:

"... when I first got interested in golden carp, in addition to the tranquility I got from observing them, I would always add something gold to the dresses I wore at night. It could have been a gold belt, gloves or stockings. I believed that wearing something gold would bring me good luck, perhaps save me from bumping into the Goat Killer Gang that operated in the center of the city."

Beauty Salon, from CityLights.