Way back at the very beginning of this book, I came across the phrase "the briefest crystallized vomitings," used to describe a conversation between raindrops and the earth (page 9). I wondered about that phrase. I pondered what it could mean. I cared.
I mention this to highlight the contrast with the mirthless internal laughter I felt welling up when I came to these words on page 579 (italics in the original):
Then he took a breath, as if he were about to tell a long story, and Chuy Pimentel chose that moment to take a picture of him. In it, because of the light and the angle, Haas looks much thinner, his neck long like a turkey's, though not just any turkey but a singing turkey or a turkey about to break into song, not just sing, but break into song, a piercing song, a grating song, a song of shattered glass, but of glass bearing a strong resemblance to crystal, that is, to purity, to self-abnegation, to a total lack of deceitfulness.
A passage like this requires a certain indulgence on the part of the reader. A reader must be willing to look at sentences like those and think to himself, "I'm sure there is something in there worth deciphering. I'm going to think about it and come up with an answer." It requires a certain investment, a certain good will toward the author.
I read that passage, thought to myself "turkey is about right," and concluded that it doesn't make a lick of sense. The italicized break into song was particularly irritating, and made me want to throw the book across the room.
My tallied good will toward this author is around about nil. Having spent much of the book being drawn inexorably toward Santa Teresa and now finally on the other side of the Crimes, I am utterly disinclined to grant him whatever time would be required to come up with a plausible interpretation of his obscure metaphors, no matter how poetically formulated. At this point, after reading about torture and rape and murder and mutilation, not to mention misogyny and homophobia and judicial ineptitude, I am resting gently on the conclusion that Bolaño wrote about the Juarez murders because he just wanted to find the most horrible thing he could and base a book on it. I find him ghoulish and calculating and a world away from all the lovely things critics have inexplicably said about him.
No good will. At all.
However, there's one Part to go. So I'm going to still my fingers here. Before I chuck this book into the nearest bin and go completely off the rails ranting about it, I'll see how it ends. My opinions has nowhere to go but up.