How to brush your teeth in a fire

Raquel Jones, lick your teeth, 2021
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By DANIEL BRAZIL*

Commentary on Marcílio Godoi's book

The cover and unusual title flirt with surrealism, at first glance. Reading the 43 short stories in the volume, however, will expand the aesthetic and formal possibilities, not fitting into a specific genre. There are denser texts, which place the reader in front of the dilemmas and anxieties of human beings, and others that are more rarefied, which require the sensitivity of someone who knows how to appreciate the beauty of clouds.

This is the book How to brush your teeth in a fire, by Marcílio Godoi. Each story is the name of a character (Carmen, Renata, Augusto, Wesley, etc.), who may have concrete roots and abstract attitudes, or vice versa. A woman who has one foot bigger than the other. A man who writes gongoric epitaphs. Another one who loses things. The woman pierced by arrows. The young woman who takes her father's ashes for a bike ride.

Some references to real characters gain prominence in the ghostly landscape. The short story Getúlio refers to Getúlio Vargas, but has a surprising narrator. Snooker ace Carne Frita is the main character of a story. The narrator whose father turns into a tree certainly refers to Guimarães Rosa. It is likely that other characters, who seem to us to be products of pure fiction, are part of the author's personal gallery. It doesn't matter.

We are in front of a mosaic of portraits, or sketches of portraits, stitched together using the refined language of Marcílio Godoi. Master in literary criticism and doctor of letters, the polygrapher from Minas Gerais has published novels (Etelvine), children's literature and poetry. He never uses the brutality of actions or descriptive crudity, so popular with some contemporary fiction writers, to compose his narratives.

He prefers poetic language, dotted with metonymies and unusual images, and delights in unusual words and hints of extravagant humor. It drinks from the source of popular expressions, distorts clichés and invents meanings. There is something Cortezarian permeating the reading.

In the end, we are not sure whether we are reading a collection of poetic chronicles, a set of biographical sketches or speculations about the tortuous paths of madness that, to a greater or lesser extent, affects all of humanity. The variety of rhythms, changes in tone and alternations of language contribute to the polyphonic result of the volume. And the most surprising thing is that this stylistic indeterminacy seems to be something very planned and well executed, including the cover, which is also the author's creation. Something for someone who has mastered the narrative craft and knows where they want to go.

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel suit of kings (Penallux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

Reference


Marcílio Godoi. How to brush your teeth in a fire. São Paulo, Patuá, 2023, 218 pages. [https://amzn.to/49s9nQq]


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