2666: the end of the Part About the Crimes

You know the best thing about the Part About the Crimes?

It ends.

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 BolaƱo 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.


  1. Gadfly John the Art CriticApril 5, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    Hey, I was... oh, look, a squirrel!

  2. I have only one passage noted in The Part About the Crimes that approaches the lyricism with which we were inundated in Amalfitano:
    "Despondent, she went back to her house, to the other neighbor woman and the girls, and for awhile the four of them experienced what it was like to be in purgatory, a long helpless wait, a wait that begins and ends in neglect, a very Latin American experience, as it happened, and all too familiar, something that once you thought about it you realized you experienced daily, minus the despair, minus the shadow of death sweeping over the neighborhood like a flock of vultures and casting its pall, upsetting all routines, leaving everything overturned" (528).

    The violence of this section, the social disregard for the violence in this section,and the unspoken violence inherent in the lives of this section all paint a pretty political picture of border trade and disposable lives in border-town factory production.

    And I really hope Archimboldi holds something quite different.

  3. Dan: clearly you and I disagree about the underlying aims and ultimate worth of this novel, but I have to admit that the Klaus Hass breaking into song passage had me rolling my eyes as well, and thinking: dude needs an editor.

  4. Still with you, Dan. And although, like you, I'm straining to suspend my final judgment for another 200 pages, right now it seems to me I've never read a book and disagreed so strongly with all the praise it had earned.

  5. Well, this should make for some interesting concluding essays, and I look forward to disagreeing with you guys. Regarding Bolano and David Foster Wallace, I just today remembered that the final paragraph of my Goodreads review of Savage Detectives contained this sentence: “This is not a novel for people who believe that modern fiction took a wrong turn at James Joyce and has been on a highway to hell ever since, with Pynchon, Delillo and David Foster Wallace key signposts along the way.” Maybe I should find someone to replace DFW as the third example in that sentence.

  6. Sorry--end of a long day: my point, of course, being that both Bolano's detractors and defenders seem to agree that he's no DFW, not that DFW fans wouldn't also like Joyce, Pynchon and Delillo.