September 8, 2011

Literary Pick (*)

2666
-Roberto Bolaño





















Either this book was brilliantly clandestine, or unabashedly dull.
I've been putting off reviewing this novel for the longest time because I had notes on it on several different scraps of paper, desktop documents and 2 notebooks. I would like to begin by offering an overview of my impression of the work as a whole. Having read two other works by Bolaño, and being a great fan of his style and ideas, I have to say, that not only was I not impressed by 2666, but it also left me scratching my head as to why on earth it got such good reviews.
Most of the raves came from the male population on goodreads, and I have to admit it's a bit disturbing to me. Not sure why, but I have many things to discuss so I won't waste any time trying to analyze why they enjoyed this book so much.
As much as I despise men's weaknesses, I seldom, very seldom, use literature as a platform to voice my feminist views on certain subjects. I like to think of myself as an unbiased reader who can accept women depicted in any way, shape or form. I think the only book I remember ever reading that was straight out misogynistic was Milan's Kundera's "The Unbearable Lightness of Being", and when a goodreads member described 2666 as "misogynistic", it made me wonder what they were referring to. I later understood what this member meant.
Getting back to the reasons why I didn't enjoy this book. I understand Bolano wrote it when he was aware of his imminent death. So I feel like his melancholy might have been the reason why he thought It was important to record and enclose every single thought that came to him mind regarding this theme.
I'm not sure if this comparison has ever been made between Bolano and Dante, but you know how in The Divine Comedy, Dante tries to cover a vast array of subjects such as theology, astrology, paganism, mathematics, etc? Well, Bolaño did same thing, not sure if it was intentional, but he covered topics (just off the top of my head) such as math, geometry, mythology, religion, folklore, etc. There's no doubt that 2666 is incredibly diverse. I think I was a bit overwhelmed by it to be quite honest. I'm also by no means a lazy reader. I don't mind having to read 4, 5 even 6 chapters of material so long as there's a point and a reward, but it's simply too much for a writer to ask a reader to read 400+ pages of directionless writing. Even Nabokov couldn't ask that of me!
Parts I thought were semi-interesting ultimately lead nowhere. For example, the most interesting part of the book to me was the hanging of the book upside down on the clothesline, because I'm a huge fan of conceptual art and it reminded me of something Yoko Ono would do.
I thought, ok, the life stories are boring, and seem to go nowhere, but I know that when I get to part 4, oh yeah! it's going to describe crazy gory scenes of how these women were tortured and killed and raped a million ways till Sunday, and I expected some real trujillo mind-bending WTFuckness. But it was all just a list, a banal list of one after the other. Another woman was found stabbed... another woman was found raped... another woman was found without her socks on...
Murders. And murders. And more murders. Page after page, with chapters that were 300 pages long. And there weren't juicy descriptions of murders, or backgrounds on any of the victims making you sympathize with them. It was like watching old episodes of the First 48. Do you care about those victims? sadly, you don't. It's more about the authorities solving the murders than it is about the loss of life. None of it was that morbid to me. Anyone who thinks so must be a sheltered person who lives in Mankato or something. I was expecting some real crazy shit like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or silence of the lambs, but it felt like I was reading groundhogs day with Bill Murray.
Then Bolano tried to build up a climax by revealing that Reiter was Archimboldi, but by then I was suffering from such an extreme state of readers fatigue that the element of surprise was totally lost on me.
Then while I was not looking, the most horrible thing happened, I got up to get a glass of water and when I returned the book had become War and Peace! how many subjects did this man try to cover?!
Then all the character stories left you nowhere. What happened to the father and daughter? How about the black guy and the girl he helped escape? So many other characters who simply drifted to nowhere land. It was a very difficult book for me to read, to understand, follow, you name it. I simply don't understand why guys rated this book so highly.

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