Juan Gabriel Vásquez's "Reputations" Raises Some Big Questions

For one: If someone drew a picture of you that you didn't like, what would you do about it?

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At a lunch hosted by the publisher of Juan Gabriel Vásquez's new novel Reputations, editors in attendance were greeted by something pretty unusual: their own faces. At each seat, there was a hand-drawn portrait of the person meant to sit there, based on a photo provided to an artist.

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There was a reason for this: Vásquez's new novel grapples with the story of a political cartoonist whose life is upended when he depicts a powerful politician in an unfavorable light. It's easy to think that an unflattering portrait would be easy enough to brush off (and even easier if you didn't dislike the portrait but just didn't find it all that realistic), but the publisher of Reputations wanted editors to rethink that idea before they sat to discuss the book.

As a fan of the illustrator they used, I was pretty excited about mine. Though I did have an odd moment of reckoning at first. Damn, do I always look that serious? I thought. (As it turns out: I do. Sorry.) It was quickly clear to me how a portrait that was actually bad paired with a recipient with a fragile ego could be a catastrophic combination.

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Interested? Learn more about Reputations below.

The Book's Most Breathtaking Passage

"And now they were splitting up…."

The Sweet Author Questionnaire

"Writing novels is always a process of discovery…"

And, Finally, the First Line of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," In Spanish

It's one of Vásquez's favorite opening lines of all time—he quoted it from memory. (The line in English, by the way, is: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.")

Reputations by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Riverhead), $25, powells.com.

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