I just finished Roberto Bolano’s 2666, his 800+ page epic undertaking, published after his death. (I also finished it the day after it was due at the library-no mean feat, especially given my late fee track record!)
2666 was on many critics’ top lists for 2008, and I decided to give it a whirl, even if I have been in the middle of Bolano’s The Savage Detectives for over a year. The book itself is divided into five sections, all loosely connected (and, spoiler, in no way that I could tell connected to the title at all). Very, very, generally, it is about a German writer, Benno von Archimboldi, who currently resides in Mexico at the time of a murder spree targeting Mexican women in the border town of Santa Teresa.
As I finished it, I wish that I had read it in a class or had someone to discuss it with, as it just brings out the English major in me. (This might also be because I have been reading a lot of graphic novels recently, which doesn’t interest the English major.) For example, I found that it was most engaging and readable at the beginning and end. These sections were, respectively, about literary critics who studied the reclusive German writer Archimboldi, and about Archimboldi’s own origins. I don’t know if it was because I generally prefer Western European literature, or if its an innate bias of mine, but in these sections, the characters and plotlines were definitely more flushed out and less itinerant than the other three sections, which took place mostly in Mexican. The section about the murders themselves was very off-putting, and almost lost me. There must have been fifty descriptions of women who had been murdered, in a way a newspaper would have done so: height, weight, clothing. No effort to humanize or describe the tragedy, only categorize and count.
I understand that by describing the victims like that, it only emphasized how little was known about them and how voiceless the women were. But Bolano refuses to “solve” the mystery of the killings, or wrap up the storyline in any satisfying way. Whereas the mystery origins of Archimboldi is explained fully and even comes together in a neat way at the end. All the description of violence and rape against the women left me with a really nasty taste in my mouth, and used the way they were in the book felt exploitative. Bolano’s point? Perhaps.
As I said, sounds like someone’s future thesis, huh? It did make me miss school and intellectual stimulation. In short, it’s definitely time to take the GRE. It was an interesting read, and an enormous work that I’m not justice to here. Not a reread for me, though.
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I wanted to keep two links about the inauguration, now that the dust has settled.
First, here is an apology from the Senate Chief of Service to some 5,000 people who had tickets to the inauguration and were not let in. It’s on Facebook, which I find quite charming. The apology itself is good, too.
Second, take a look at Maira Kalman’s sketch-thoughts of the event. Lovely, reflective and inspiring.
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Still working on keeping writing. I think I did it 5 times in January. Keep at it! I must!