Thursday, February 08, 2007

Today I'm excited about Roberto Bolano, who became one of the most important Chilean writers of his generation, then died, at fifty, a few years ago. New Directions published his early books--short novels and stories--and now FSG will bring out the major book he published during his lifetime--THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES--this April, to be followed by his INFINITE JEST-sized postumous novell, 2666, in 2008.

I read some of the stories in LAST EVENINGS ON EARTH while riding the subways today, and tonight I started THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES. Bolano is a strange writer. He's not much interested in things happening. He writes a lot about poets, these poet characters he likes, tortuted, self-obsessed, melodramatic. He may be a kind of spiritual cousin to Sebald. Susan Sontag liked both writers. But Bolano is also related to his Latin American forebearers like Garcia Marquez, though there is no magic, per se, just a slippery sense of what constitutes a book.

So far in the novel--and I'm only up to page 11--the main characters, who narrates the book as a kind of journal, talks about how he rebelled in his poetry workshop and joined a group of renegade poets called the viceral realists. There is some time spent waiting for these poets in a bar, a pretty waitnress, and a bad poem, which sends the protagonists into a fit of masturbation. And what is exciting or satisfying about this? I'm not quite sure, but it is certainly satisfying. There's an energy about it. More soon.

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