2666: pages 637 - 701

I feel almost bad about my reaction to this first section of the last Part. I'm pretty sure I would have liked it a whole lot more if I'd read it as a stand-along novel.

However, coming as it did on the heels of the Crimes, it made me angry. (At this point, I somehow suspect my anger at this book is no longer surprising.) After a couple hundred pages of the most graphic, deadpan descriptions of mutilated and murdered women, we veer into magical realism? (I don't care if Isabel Allende once ran over Roberto Bolaño's cat. If the fantastical, oneiric passages about the bottom of the sea and the Town of Chattering Girls aren't magical realism, I'd love someone to tell me what is.) It seems remarkably self-indulgent to me, no matter how much of a relief if it is.

That said, once that particular reaction faded, I enjoyed this Part more than any of the others thus far. While I can't say the characters are sympathetic per se, at least there's an engaging story, and the prose is mostly lovely. ("Smelled of mirror" on page 654 is an eye-rolling exception. Preposterous.) I'm deeply curious how this all bends back toward Santa Teresa, but I'm actually enjoying the book for the first time in... ever.

Except, of course, for that unsightly fly wriggling there in the ointment. Jeff (whose haiku may be the single best thing I've read about this book, period) has a good post about the homophobia in the book being a sign of its underlying structural misogyny. I agree that it is in keeping with the violence and degradation of women in and around Santa Teresa. However, at this point in the reading, I'm taking the "homophobic" label off of the characters and the culture, and slapping it squarely on Roberto Bolaño. Why?

I'm going to pause here, because I intend to swear. Readers who'd like to avoid my using nasty language can skip the remainder of this post. (This includes readers who may or may not be my mother.)

Roberto Bolaño can take his goddamned "faggot sea anemone" (page 647) and cram it right up his ass. Better yet, he can find a nice, heterosexual sea urchin and cram it right up along with it.

"Faggot sea anemone" is plainly idiotic, absurd and gratuitous in the extreme. I defy anyone to convince me that Bolaño is using that word differently than your typical 8th grade boy does. It is abject nonsense, used strictly for its own transgressive shock value. Other people can try to explain this away, but I no longer have any time or inclination to do so. The Large Hadron Collider could run for a thousand years and not find a particle small enough to describe my affection for this author.

Screw you, Bolaño. (I really want to use a stronger word, but I will refrain because I'm sure I'd regret it later.) I am sick of your jaundiced world-view, your self-indulgence, and your homophobia. You get no (NO) generosity from me, and I cannot wait to be rid of your book.

1 comment:

  1. I'm shocked I don't writhe under the weight of the book's rampant homophobia, and that I focus, instead, on the misogyny and the weak female characters. I guess he has something to offend everyone.
    I actually resent the cynicism to magical realism to cold reportage and back to magic shifts among the sections.
    And what the hell is up with the mirror smell? The rest of that passage is flawless, until the mirror clunker.
    I'm reading something fun after this. Like Lyle Lovett lyrics or something.