Tuesday, September 16, 2008


A few posts down, dglen asked if I have any thoughts to share on 2666.

Now, I am simply a reader and a singer of songs; I am not a critic, nor am I schooled in the proper ways of reading. I read partially by gut. Let the big guys like Fausto and Scott and Chad go after this one with their usual flair and the sharp instruments of their analysis -- they do it so well.

I'll tell you simply this: Read it. It's one of those books that comes along rarely, perhaps every decade or so, like Infinite Jest or One Hundred Years of Solitude or Gravity's Rainbow -- books that stretch the form because they must, because the existing form cannot capture what the writer needs to say. 2666 is dark and long and winding, repetitive in the way a Beethoven symphony is repetitive (although RB's tone is much more Shostakovich), and the way the writer circles (circles! no convergence!) around the main theme -- the black Void of Evil that is humanity -- is nothing short of breathtaking. Here we are taken aloft on the wings of some heavy dank creature to glide in ever shrinking spirals on the warm thermals of a deathly desert, safely aloof yet shaking with terror for right beneath us Hell's own maw gapes and burps. And yes, Bolano's Evil is ultimately banal, but -nosiree- it ain't trivial. Never before have I seen this done with this such sharp clarity and yet such clever circumspection: The writer stares at the Platonic shadows on the wall (that is, if darkness could cast shadows) and then does what he has to do. He sits and sets on paper the ever churning circles of his mind. Knowing, as Bolano did, that this novel would end with the writer's own death, is fully part of the novel's hidden narrative and its significance.

This is no hype concocted by the slimy assclowns of the publishing industry. For once, this is the real deal -- the raw deal.

Bonus question: Why are all the great writers dead? Why did we have to wait until DFW died to hear all this great praise heaped upon him? Why is writing such ungrateful work (see Flann O'Brien, see Willem Elsschot)? Shouldn't we start celebrating and hugging our living writers (and by extension all creative artists), maybe not to the extent we obsessively revere Matthew McConaughey's perfect abs and pecs or Jessica Simpson's wondrous hairdo, but still? Or do we await the artsy equivalent of a Wall Street collapse before we all rush in?


MBR said...

So how does 2666 compare to The Savage Detectives, just in general? I can't wait to read it.

And I don't know what it is about death (and especially the sad way in which his came about) that reignites interest. I know that I'm rereading the books of his I have now.

Paul Verhaeghen said...

Here is where I admit sheepishly that I spent the time I should have spent reading The Savage Detectives reading the Border Trilogy. My irreversible bad.

MBR said...

Well it's pretty good!

For some awful reason I immediately thought of the damn vampire series when I read "Border Trilogy." My apologies.

MBR said...

I finished it this morning. Good grief.

Jonathan said...

Woah! You didn't like The Border Trilogy?

I just happened to finish it this weekend and really loved it. Perhaps even moreso than 2666 (certainly more than The Savage Detectives).

By the way, I just ordered Omega Minor and as I'm currently teaching English in South Korea, hope to be the foremost Omega Minor scholar in the country.

Paul Verhaeghen said...

No. I loved the Border Trilogy. But I came to that game late, I 'spose, and at a time when the a$$clowns of the publishing industry would have had me read TSD, in prep for 2,666, which I read ahead of schedule, and so none of that reading is of any use to anyone, except to enhance the sloshing underneath my eggshaped little skull.
Or something like that.
If you need proselytizing: I am probably not early to the Evenson game either, but he's our current genius.