Wednesday, September 29, 2010

(2666) Makes Me Feel Good

Oh, 2666.

Since the last time I wrote about it, I read another 300+ pages. It went quicker now that the world has been introduced and we're getting into the characters. Also: photos are obviously not mine.

The story only starts kicking into high gear when a woman is involved. For the first book, (the author Roberto Bolano, left , now dead, suggested to his family, just before his death that the five parts of 2666 be split up and published as five separate pieces) the woman, called Liz Norton (an critic of a fictitious author called Archimboldi) starts having sex with two (Pelletier and Espinoza) of the three men (Morini) in the group at the same time and then the three of them (minus Morini) head off to Mexico where Archimboldi is rumored to be.

The four are all professors at European universities.

They don't find Archimboldi, but the tenured academics end up having a three way and interacting with the residents (the two men visiting hookers) after the woman chooses neither of them leaves. The distance between the white European professors and the residents is understated, with the tension being between what the residents feel and the professors don't see or recognize.

When they get back to England (where the woman teaches) Bolano is sharp, with one of the two professors beating an angry cabbie to the point of almost-murder and the other professor simply kicking the cabbie when he's on the ground from the beating. Espinoza, the professor doing the beating is terrified to return to the country, while the other professor thought that it simply wasn't sporting to kick the guy when he's down.

The second book is about a philosophy professor (Amalfitano, living in Mexico) being driven insane by his deranged ex-wife who writes him letters from her hitchhiking trip, where she swears she had sex with a gay poet. She casually mentions that the poet's partner, has AIDS, which can't have gone unnoticed by the professor. Their daughter is perpetually in the background, but by the end of the portion (much shorter, 60some pages), it's not the father making lunches for his daughter, it's the other way around, which is a great indication of who is still all there and who will factor into the story later more heavily.

It's here that the book starts going into the really long paragraphs (three ish pages), but at least this time, there's periods, which are tiny, tiny oasis' in the swirling sand that is Bolano's writing. (Related note: I don't know the plural for oasis.)

My favorite quote from the book so far, from page 227:

Now, even bookish pharmacists are afraid to take on the great, imperfect torrential works, books that blaze paths into the unknown. They choose the perfect exercises of the great masters...they have no interest in real combat when the great masters struggle against something, that something terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.

Yes, that is Bolano calling readers posers for choosing the safe works where authors don't make mistakes and are on all the time. They want to see the flawless, pretty youtube instructional video and not the false starts and trip ups that must accompany the brightest shining and proudest moments of the authors. A(nd yes, I chose that picture right there because he looks super nerdy and more accessible to me than the picture up top.)

I wonder if I'm guilty of that myself. I can't say why, since I'm technically sworn to secrecy, but I can assure it's far more pedestrian than I make it sound. I mean, I like Crime In Stereo's The Troubled Stateside perhaps more than the rest of their discography, but that's one of their in-genre (Long Island hardcore, if you were wondering) records, where every song feels like a bomb, but it's something where the lineage is extremely clear and there's immediate parallels (Kill Your Idols, Silent Majority, Millhouse) for the whole enterprise.

Crime In Stereo's final (so far) studio full length, I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone, has a lot of great songs, and songs I like better than The Troubled Stateside, but overall it's shaky and uneven. Queue Moderns leads into Drugwolf, but Exit Halo after that one, goes a little long, say, for the majority of Exit Halo's six minute running time. There is no song like that on Troubled Stateside.

Anyway. 2666. I beginning to slow down on it, now that the perspective has shifted yet again to a detective who lives at the heart of the book, in Santa Teresa, (the Ciudad Juarez analogue), but the detective stuff is currently just a little bit plodding. The women dropping like flies advertised in every review I could find, are dying faster now. Currently, the detective is being assigned to other cases, but the dead women just keep piling up on the periphery of the story. If there's anything I've learned from Bolano's writing, it's that what's on the periphery now will become hugely important later on. A final note: the picture to the immediate left is one when the writer was 23, according to where I found it on the internet. He died at 50.

Here is the first song on the new Iron Chic record, Not Like This. The song is called Cutesy Monster Man and it's...gruff punk rock from the guys who used to be in Latterman (a band I mentioned here before) and Small Arms Dealer (a band who'se first CD I own but never listened to). It's a live take, because I can't find the studio version.

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