Thursday, February 16, 2017

Cleaning Out the Drafts, 2014

Over the years, I have started posts and they end up sitting in draft status.

That seems wasteful.

Here is the first of some fragments from years past as I dispatch these drafts.

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from 2014:

What I'm Reading in 2014: Roberto Bolaño

With the exception of Gabriel García Márquez,  I have never been a huge fan of Latin American literature.  I have been AWARE of it,  but I never consumed it and if I did,  it was rarely in any great quantities.

Some time in 2013, I was in Westsider Books on Broadway,  trying to determine how to spend a store credit,  when I spotted 2066 by Roberto Bolaño .

I knew enough to recognize Bolaño's name,  and knew that he had died young,  at fifty,  but I had never read anything by him.  The copy of 2066 was a trio of slip cased paperbacks and I love a good presentation of literature,  so I nabbed it and brought it home.

Yet it wasn't one book,  it was three,  so it didn't beckon immediate reading.  As is often the case with lovers of literature,  I let Bolaño simmer on my shelves.  I learned that I had made a great choice,  that 2066 was considered to be his masterpiece.  I brought the volumes to work and placed them on an empty book shelf.

And then, one day,  I started on my first Bolaño journey. It was unlike anything I had ever read.  It was fascinating. It made the mundane interesting.  Literary critics obsessed with the same obscure European novelist.  The book was five parts, or the books were five volumes, captured in three bodies.  We went from Europe to Mexico where book 3, The Part About the Murders, crawled along in fascinating yet clinical detail about serial killings of women in northern Mexico,  a true crime aspect that was based on real life atrocities. The dust that seemed to hang in the air of the fictional town of Santa Theresa found is way into my bloodstream and became a part of me. 

It took me a while to read the whole of 2066. I want to say several months,  but I am a slow reader at times,  and Bolaño can be difficult. When I finished the third section,  I breathed a sigh of relief.  It was disturbing and numbing, simultaneously. I moved on and the narrative sped forward. I was transported to a version of World War II unfamiliar to me, a perspective of a German soldier,  fodder for the war machine.  Having just read Mailer's The Naked and the Dead, I was feeding on another facet of the war.

2066 is one of those novels that changes you,  as long as you embrace it and commit to every leg of the ride.  This Bolaño,  I now understood what the fuss was all about.

I have since found this list of an essential Bolaño reading list, perused it,  bookmarked it, and after a few months, went back to it.

All of a sudden,  I was bonkers for Bolaño. I read AntwerpLast Evenings on Earth, The Insufferable Gaucho and Monsieur Pain. Antwerp was a short experiential "novel" that read more like the bastard child of a surrealist screenplay  and a lengthy prose poem.  LNOE and Gaucho were short story collections that had me riveted.  Pain was categorized by the aforementioned article on Bolano's work in the grouping of "for conpletists".

I have still to read other great Bolaño's,  I am told.  I am hooked. I can hardly wait to see what else I will discover.

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Looking back, I embarked on Bolaño's acclaimed novel, The Savage Detectives, and hit a wall. The first section was great, then the library due date arrived and I couldn't re-new it. I set it aside. One of these days, I'll try again.

Of course, this seems like a pretty full post. Not sure why I never hit "publish" on that one.

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