Thursday, June 4, 2009

To Roberto Bolano, RE: 2666

You swallowed my month of May. April, too actually because I finished you in April, but I was so exhausted from reading 2666 that for awhile I was only capable of reading articles here and there, poems here and there, etc., not an actual book [though, I did read two books-more on those in the next two posts]. Exhausted and exhilarated, too--a post marathon feeling. A marathon in which I also got married mid-run. And finished in the top ten.

I've probably written enough to you on this blog in the five months it's existed, and I'm far enough away from the last page of 2666 that my thoughts/impressions of it--other than a general awe, appreciation of its skill, and gratitude for the chance to read it--have faded. So I'll give way to the passages that made it into my notebook. [Truthfully, there should be many more. Often times I'd be caught reading it without my notebook open and lament that I was passing by a passage that I wanted to save and knew, if I didn't get up that instant and write it down, that it'd be lost, but I didn't because I wanted to retain my forward momentum in the text. So these are lost. Someday I hope to re-read this book. I very much look forward to that day.]

"...dazzled by the shine of their own virtue, a shine that might not last (since virtue, once recognized in a flash, has no shine and makes its home in a dark cave amid cave dwellers, some dangerous indeed)..."
[I have no idea what this means btw]

"Morini was about to shout again and wave when he sensed someone at his back. Two things were instantly certain: the thing was evil and it wanted Morini to turn around and see its face."

"Coincidence, on the other hand, is total freedom. Our natural destiny. Coincidence obeys no laws and if it does we don't know what they are. Coincidence, if you'll permit me the simile, is like the manifestation of God at every moment on our planet. A senseless God making senseless gestures at his senseless creatures. In that hurricane, in that osseous implosion, we find communion. The communion of coincidence and effect and the communion of effect with us."

El Cerdo's hierarchical system of four different business cards: the "A" card has his home phone number; the "B" card has his office phone number; the "C" card has his secretary's phone number; and "There's nothing on the D card, it's blank, just my name, that's all."

"Or at the German embassy in Moscow, in a Chanel suit, with two Russians in her retinue, declaiming on Bulgakov and the (incomparable) beauty of Russian rivers in the fall, before the winter frosts."

The entire section on pages 128-9 that describes the city of Santa Teresa is breathtaking, but too long to reproduce the whole thing. Here's a chunk:
"To the south they discovered rail lines and slum soccer fields surrounded by shacks, and the even watched a match, without getting out of the car, between a team of the terminally ill and a team of the starving to death, and there were two highways that led out of the city, and a gully that had become a garbage dump, and neighborhoods that had grown up lame or mutilated or blind, and, sometimes, in the distance, the silhouettes of industrial warehouses, the horizon of the maquiladoras. The city, like all cities, was endless."

"The sky, at sunset, looked like a carniverous flower."

"So miracles were possible, after all. The internet bookstores worked."

"Sometimes Pelletier was by the pool, in a sweater or wrapped in a towel, sipping whiskey. Other times Espinoza found him in a room presided over by an enormous border landscape, painted, one could see instantly, by someone who had never been to the border: there was more wishfulness than realism in the industriousness and harmony of the landscape."

"The University of Santa Teresa was like a cemetary that suddenly begins to think, in vain. It was also like an empty dance club."
[my favorite couplet in the book]

"Anyway, these ideas or feelings or ramblings had their satisfaction. They turned the pain of others into memories of one's own. They turned pain, which is natural, enduring, and eternally triumphant, into personal memory, which is human, brief, and eternally elusive. They turned a brutal story of injustice and abuse, an incoherent howl with no beginning or end, into a neatly structured story in which suicide was always held out as a possibility."
[I take this as your own description of the book inside the book itself]

"Calm is the one thing that will never let us down."

"When they got home it was dark but the shadow of Dieste's book hanging from the clothesline was clearer, steadier, more reasonable, thought Amalfitano, than anything they'd see on the outskirts of Santa Teresa or in the city itself, images with no handhold, images freighted with all the orphanhood in the world, fragements, fragments."

"He wrote an essay on the future of literature, which began and ended with the word nothing."

"As if all the Germans cared about was reading and food, which was wasn't true but sometimes seemed to be, especially in Cologne."

"They talked about books, about poetry (Ingeborg asked Reiter why he didn't write poetry and he answered that all poetry, of any style, was contained or could be contained in fiction)..."

"You may say that literature doesn't consist solely of masterpieces, but rather is populated by so-called minor works. I believed that, too. Literature is a vast forest and the masterpieces are the lakes, the towering trees or strange trees, the lovely, eloquent flowers, the hidden caves, but a forest is also made up of ordinary trees, patches of grass, puddles, clinging vines, mushrooms, and little wildflowers. I was wrong. There's actually no such thing as minor work. I mean: the author of the minor work isn't Mr. X or Mr. Y. Mr. X and Mr. Y. do exist, there's no question about that, and they struggle and toil and publish in newspapers and magazines and sometimes they even come out with a book that isn't unworthy of the paper its printed on, but those books and articles, if you pay close attention, are not written by them.
Every minor work has a secret author and every secret author is, by definition, a writer of masterpieces. Who writes the minor work? A minor writer, or so it appears. The poor man's wife can attest to that, she's seen him sitting at the table, bent over the blank pages, restless in his chair, his pen racing over the paper. The evidence would seem to be incontrovertible. But what she's seen is only the outside, the shell of literature, a semblance...The person who really writes the minor work is a secret writer who accepts only the dictates of a masterpiece...if his wife had x-ray vision she would see that instead of being present at an exercise of literary creation, she's witnessing a session of hypnosis. There's nothing inside the man who sits there writing. Nothing of himself I mean."

"Few are the writers who give up."

"In a word, experiene is best. I won't say you can't get experience by hanging around libraries, but libraries are second to experience."

"The day came when I decided to give up literature. I gave it up. This was in no way traumatic but rather liberating. Between you and me, I'll confess that it was like losing my virginity. What a relief to give up literature, to give up writing and simply read!"

"...Archimboldi had a view of literature (though the word view is too grand) as something divided into three compartments, each connected only tenuously to the others: in the first were the books he read and reread and considered magnificent and sometimes monstrous, like the fiction of Doblin, who was still one of his favorite authors, or Kafka's complete works. In the second compartment were the books of the epigones and authors he called the Horde, who he essentially saw as his enemies. In the third compartment were his own books and his plans for future books, which he saw as a game and also as a business, a game insofar as he derived pleasure from writing, a pleasure similar to that of the detective on the heels of the killer, and a business insofar as the publication of his books helped to augment, however modestly, his doorman's pay."

"...and a little gravel path that crunched underfoot, a noise that set one's nerves or nervelets on edge."

" of the anxiety of time, because now they had more than enough time, which is perhaps what distinguishes a democracy, spare time, surplus time, time to read and time to think..."

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