August 2009

I’m lousy at blogging. Might try to work on that after the op. so again from the bumpidee reader


Posted by CO

One of Monty Python’s funniest sketches is The Summarize Proust Competition. Contestants are given 15 seconds to summarize Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past.
Its funny because of the typically absurdist Python twist; Remembrance of Things Past is a seven volume work that is impossible to summarize at all, let alone in 15 minutes.

Roberto Bolano’s magnum opus 2666 is just like Proust. Its futile to summarize. So I will follow the lead of other reviewers and offer a pat summary of the structure; Its 890 pages, broken into 5 parts, with digressions. The five parts consist of different stories which sometime intersect and somehow connect with the background of the unsolved murders of hundreds of women in the Mexican border town of St. Theresa. (based on the true events of the still unsolved murders of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juarez read this article). I’m tempted to say these murders- while obviously horrific in their own right- are also an allegory, like the Baltimore of The Wire, for the general state humanity is now in.

Still, the problem with this pat summary is that it doesn’t do the job. If anything its too straight forward and off putting and quite simply doesn’t do justice to the dizzy, addictive contrapuntal variation of settings, style, imagery, inventiveness, characters and tone, which has endless brilliant sentences like this which rival any of the best social and political thought;

“Names, names, names. Those who made the revolution and those who were devoured by that same revolution, though it wasn’t the same but another, not the dream but the nightmare that hides behind the eyelids of the dream.”

and this which rival any of the best surreal humor;

He meets a jazz musician who tells him about chickens that talk and probably think

“the worst of it,” the musician say to him, “is that the governments of the planet know it and that’s why so many people raise chickens.”

The boy objects that the chickens are raised to be eaten. The musician says that’s what the chickens want. And he finishes by saying “Fucking masochistic chickens, they have our leaders by the balls.”

I guess all I can say is that 2666 is incredible. Its one of the best books I’ve ever read. I read it in two weeks in what little spare time I have. I couldn’t stop because it was so good. Now I kinda wish i’d taken my time. In many ways im still processing it. I want to read it again.

I bought The Savage Detectives as the third part of a 3 for the price of two deal at the bookstore. The bookstore had the two David Simon books as part of the 3 for 2 deal, so I felt obligated to get the third for free. But I had some trouble finding the third. I finally decided on The Savage Detectives because I had read great reviews of Bolano’s 2666 and The Savage Detectives was 200 pages shorter, so less of a gamble.

This was a few months back. The Savage Detectives sat on my shelf. I read a brilliantly suggestive book on French theories hidden affinity with neoliberalism. I read most of David Simon’s Homicide: a Year on the Killing Streets. I also read for school and was busy working.

Last weekend my schedule opened up and I took the weekend off. I decided to read a book. I tried to get Vineland by Thomas Pynchon, but after walking to campus, found out the library was closed. So I decided to give The Savage Detectives a try.

Do you have a word for those incredible moments when something just clicks and you are immediately engrossed in music, film, literature? When the work and the artist become your new obsession? I don’t. I can’t imagine that one word can fully describe it. But, its what happened from the very first sentence of The Savage Detectives, which has this superb first paragraph;

“I’ve been cordially invited to join the visceral realists. I accepted, of course. There was no initiation ceremony. It was better that way.”

What follows is futile to summarize. Its too rich. Too multi-layered. Too good to reduce.( I’m sure I’ve missed the majority of jokes, references etc.) I can only describe it as a combination of Please Kill Me, Studs Terkel, Sentimental Education and the better part of the Beats meets Borges. It is essential that you read this book.

From the Guardian;
“Some have argued that pop music was the battering ram that breached the Wall…The real credit, though, lies with David Hasselhoff. The US TV star had a parallel life as a soft rocker in Germany. His none-too-subtle single “Looking for Freedom” was a huge hit in Germany in summer 1989. He got to play the crumbled Wall first, on New Year’s Eve. Hasselhoff has since complained of being left of out of the reckoning at Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie museum; he may have a point.”

Here’s the song. atrocious drivel, of course. It should have shown the East German’s there are parts of capitalism far more tortuous then anything the Stasi could dream up.