April 3, 2009

Platinumseagulls Book Club: 2666

Reading has been trife for me lately. I don't have that typical excuse of people in school who can say, "Oh, I read way too much for school to read for pleasure;" I haven't had to read shit for school in almost two years. Nah, I really can't pin point what it's been. For one thing, maybe, I've got cable; I waste a ton of time watching Manswers...Whatever, reading has been a sore spot for about the past year. It took me more than six months to read all 368 pages of The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test. Been blowing it.

Then there was 2666, by Roberto Bolaño. Me trying to explain what it's all about is superfluous; attend the preceding link for plot delineation. 2666, hailed as the best book of 2008 by Time Magazine, is a total mindfuck, at times coyly pedestrian, at other times brutally grotesque (speaking of brutally grotesque, shouts to my girl Cynthia Jones' leg; stay up lady!). At about 900 pages long, and no doubt it's dense (Bolaño is incredibly contemptuous of the paragraph break), somehow, 2666 is a surprisingly fast read.

There is no good explanation why it reads so well; beyond the two plus page paragraphs, there are no chapter breaks (there are five different sections; at one point Bolaño intented them to be published as separate books), the novel spans two continents, and in a Dickensian turn, there is a multitude of characters. My only explanation for 2666's consumability is that Bolaño fucks with the reader so much, so much so that satisfaction will only be found when explanations of just what Bolaño is doing are found. Bolaño confounds in many ways (to give "fucks with" a rest); from random expositions on Greek Myth, to real or unreal allusions to literature and history, he's constantly taking the long way to get to the end, if there is one. And in an embrace (or thug hug) of the cliché, as far as 2666 is concerned, getting there is the whole point; destinations be damned.

As far as Bolaño goes as a writer, he's the good kind; I can't help picturing him but as a total and complete dick. As I picture him posthumously, I see a strong introvert, obsessive compulsiveness, extreme intelligence, egotism, and tragedy (this opinion is backed by no real research, the only research done was reading one of his novels). As for his style, he's obsessed with the minutiae and the seemingly mundane; he extrapolates a written life that is, at times, chillingly close to the real. With all stated facts about 2666 and Bolaño standing in contradiction with this last idea, somehow, he is very straight forward.

If I were to have one bit of negative criticism for 2666, it comes down to the translation (from Spanish), which, for 99.9% of the time, is spot on and seamless. No doubt, Natasha Wimmer did an exemplary job, but words like "fucked," "fucking," (in regards to sex), "faggot," (in regards to sexual orientation and of ?) and "nigger," (used in conversation between two African-American men) at times, come off as heavy handed and gratuitous. One (me) only assumes that Bolaño was a bit more inventive in his use in his native tongue, though that may be a stretch as far as is the latter is concerned.

All in all, especially if you've read with interest this entire "Book Club" post, find and read 2666. While it's not out on paperback, get the hard novel and experience the hand-ahces that it will give you. If there were a link between skateboarding and 2666 [as in the spirit of finding a link between skateboarding and "Man on Wire" as in the Movie Club post (though I'm not sure there is one for 2666)], it would be Bolaño's desultory approach to the novel and skateboarding's desultoriness to everything in general. Whatever; I hate philosophising about skateboarding.

Currently I'm attempting to read "Swann's Way," by Proust, on a dare to myself and as a nod to my freshman literature course when it was assigned and I never read it (oh, the year 2000). On a pipe's dream I thought I'd read the entirety of "Remembrance of Things Past" (newly translated as "In Search of Lost Time," though, I love the old version more, and have made numerous references to the old in my own written works), but as Swann is showing me, I'm too much of a pussy to hack Proust, so don't expect any "Book Club" posts involving Ol' Marcel. Next one might be about Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Acid Kool-Aid Test," as mentioned above, or I may dive into Kerouac, which seems obvious, but I'm talking more "Dharma Bums" than "On The Road."

Straight forward skateboard bullshit on the next post, pinkey sweared!

11 comments:

Jewnessa said...

I feel smarter just having read this post about reading.

Anonymous said...

Oh, those damn college kids with they're vocabularies and interpretations. It's always something.

filthy cute said...

you know, there is a book club that meets once a month at my place - you should be interested.

we just finished picking out our book for next month...

Anonymous said...

As a fairly well read person who bought an English degree, I pose this question to the author of 2666: "What the fuck do you have to say that couldn't be said in under 400 pages?" Also, 6 months is about standard pace for Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. That book drags at the end. Tom Wolfe. Time Waster. Same initials. Maybe my bias comes from enjoying different genres with more direct authors. Or not. Good books are good books. - Bill W

Anonymous said...

likes this!

Anonymous said...

Speaking frankly, this is the last thing I wanted to read at 7:30 in the morning. XNXX and sweet release, here I come. Munz, in my opinion this might as well be a review of a Top Chef episode. I do appreciate you sharing what you read, but reading it makes me so happy I didn't go to college. Talk to you soon, Chips X

PS-I would have to assume Bill W. is down with Nick Squires.....Good Morning to all!

SPRNTRL said...

I'm with Chipps on this one...

Anonymous said...

Trife!

Anonymous said...

I hate reading!

Extreme Ash said...

there is a reason the mag gives you money in exchange for words.

nicely written (with a bit of the charachter "ramble" for good measure).

Anonymous said...

Charachter!