But I am not loving this book. At least not yet.
It's a bit dispiriting, to be honest. One wants so much to Get It. To belong to the coterie of enlightened readers who truly appreciate some new, great novel, and to partake in the shared enjoyment and understanding. By that same token, one fears that the inability to join in on the love is a reflection of some flaw in the reader. (Which is to say, me.) Perhaps I am too lazy. Too lacking in erudition. Too dull. For while I don't exactly apologize for hating either great classics or contemporary darlings (I thoroughly detested The Corrections) not to my taste, there is always the niggling. bothersome suspicion that a "better" reader would have appreciated them more. And so far, I just don't understand why 2666 is such a lauded piece of fiction.
Thus far, 2666 is neither plot-driven nor character-driven. Where it succeeds most truly is in its creation of atmosphere. The Part About Amalfitano is nothing if not atmospheric. One gets a genuine sense of vague foreboding and barely suppressed frustration, and Bolaño's writing is deeply portentous. An arid menace and desolation pervades the pages. If nothing more, I will concede that a stage has been well set.
I am still enjoying the book well enough to keep going without undue effort. Bolaño is an expressive writer, though I suspect I would admire his prose more in the original Spanish. (My high school/medical Spanish is laughably insufficient to tackle this challenge.) Strangely, the part I enjoyed most about this Part was Amalfitano's decision to recreate a Duchamp ready-made in his backyard (thus clearing up a mystery from the previous part); it's an odd state of affairs when the aspect I enjoy most about anything has anything to do with Marcel Duchamp. But there we are.
I ended last week's 2666 post on an up note. Sadly, I'm going to end this week's rather differently. While it wasn't enough on its own to make me dislike this section of the novel, neither was I endeared to The Part About Amalfitano by its preoccupation with homosexuality. It begins with Lola's malcathected [tip o' the hat to DFW] obsession with a gay poet, and continues with Amalfitano's father, the disembodied voice that speaks to him at night, and Guerra's son. More bluntly -- enough already with "faggot." Yes, I realize that Enlightened Readers should be past such petty concerns as the use of ugly, unpleasant words in the service of Art. Fine. But, as a gay male reader, I don't really love reading that particular word over and over and over, and if I'm going to be asked to read it thusly, I'd like to get a sense that its use is earned. I realize that Bolaño is an Artist, and has a certain degree of license. But he chose to make this Art this way with these characteristics, and I'm not entirely sure I understand why he felt the need to hit that note quite so hard. (I felt similarly during Pulp Fiction wherein Quentin Tarantino gave us White Guy So Down with Black People He Can Use the Word "Nigger"a Lot, and then obnoxiously cast himself as said WGSDBPHCUWNL.) If it's meant as some kind of indictment of the various characters who use it, it seems lazy and a bit heavy-handed. (The voice's insistence that it doesn't dislike gay people per se while still using a term of abuse for them [aka the Eminem defense] was a tidy, well-done little example of hypocrisy, I will grant.) In any case, I'm not accusing Bolaño of being a homophobe, and I don't think it ruins the novel or anything so hysterical. But neither did it enhance my enjoyment thereof.