2666: the penultimate section

In a comment over at the main Bolaño page, Paul wrote:
I’m starting to think that Bolano is something of like a cubist painter: he tries to show you every possible angle of a scene in full detail, even things that don’t seem relevant

This is somewhere close to how I've come to understand this book. I'm saving my big "compare and contrast with Infinite Jest" post for my last one (and I'm sure you're all just ill with giddy expectation), but one thing they share appears to be an attempt to describe just about everything going on in the lives and thoughts of everyone who comes into contact with the action of the novel. Viewing it in this way has helped me turn the corner into genuine appreciation.

I have only a few thoughts about this particular portion of the book. My primary reaction is that this is the first part with characters I think Bolaño actually likes, and that I have liked as well. Certainly, the description of the publisher Bubis's office is magical and wonderful and like an entryway to a Borges story. The characters of Bubis and his wife (the mysterious Baroness) are similarly compelling. Perhaps because this section tends more toward a more straight-forward narrative form and away from the vague, obscure, "poetic" writing that other people seem to like but that I find tedious.

I wonder if Archimboldi is the giant that Klaus Hass ominously warns will visit Santa Teresa. (Why he would be so menacing about a visit from the tall author is a lingering question for me.) I was struck by Ingebord's musing about men who kill their wives and get away with it, and how this resonates with the entire Part About the Crimes. And of course, we get to learn about Mrs. Bubis, first introduced to us in the Part About the Critics. We're getting a bit of narrative closure, which is nice.

I'm going to go a bit meta now, and talk a bit about the experience of participating in a collective online reading group. 2666 is probably an atypical example, as it's a pretty polarizing book. The Crimes are graphic and unexplained within the structure of the novel. The prose is often obscure, a trait for which I have little patience, and laden with imagery and metaphor that strike me as frankly nonsensical. And I've already spent time aplenty (as have others) on my gripes with what I still consider an unhealthy preoccupation (to use Maria's friend's term) with homosexuality and its associated pejorative.

Even though I've had some company, it's been not entirely wonderful being the guy who keeps saying "I hate it." I think part of the problem has been trying to keep with the schedule, which means one gets mired down and forced to linger with negative feelings that arise in various passages. Part of it is that I'm a gay man, and am far less likely to forgive or explain away certain slights that others might note in passing with a mere raised eyebrow, and thus my affection for the author was pretty frayed well before we got to the most unpleasant parts of the novel. And part is that I simply do not care for authors who can't be bothered with the once-cherished notion of clarity, and who expect us to furrow our brows trying to suss out what they meant by, say, comparing powerful politicians to rampaging pheasants. Maria has commented that it would be great if we were all discussing this in a cafe, but I'm pretty sure she would have stabbed me with her fork by now. It's no fun being the one who doesn't like what everyone else is digging, and my sympathy for Avery Edison has increased exponentially.

Anyhow, we're nearly done. Thanks to everyone who's stuck with me through all of this. I'm glad I've read this book, as it's been rewarding in its own way. But maybe not the way I would have hoped.


  1. Dan, I've very much appreciated your perspective. Like you, I can't say that I very much like the book, though I think it does, especially toward the end, start to have some real literary merit.

  2. I loved the line "I simply do not care for authors who can't be bothered with the once-cherished notion of clarity"; I'll have a smile for at least another 4 hours.

  3. I agree with your observation, Dan, that this seems to be one of the few times that Bolano likes the characters.
    I also agree with Paul about the feeling about cubism, but disagree that Bolano tries to see every side. 2666 reads much more snapshots of the world, more viewfinder 'click the button and go somewhere else entirely in an instant' than an exhaustive study of anything. That said, it feels like looking at cubist or dadaist work. And I have to say, those are my least favorite styles.
    And I'm really upset that, to me, the best writing was about the mistaken shipment of concentration camp-bound Jews to a small town. Sammer is a train wreck I can't look away from. [shudders]

  4. With Naptime's comments in mind, dare I bring up the zoetrope?