Roberto Bolano


From the Threepenney Review article on him

When Cercas asks him what it was like to live through Pinochet’s coup (a self-evidently stupid question, since most of Bolaño’s fiction deals with the subject), Bolaño pauses a moment and then answers, “Like a Marx Brothers movie, but with corpses.”

His descriptions of people done here with the Bolanoesque reversal:

“Coffeen was tall, taller than his mother, and you could tell that in his youth he must have been slim and well built, although now he was fat, or, rather, bloated. His forehead was broad, but it didn’t have the sort of breadth that suggests intelligence or sound judgement; it had the breadth of a … Read morebattlefield, and the battle had been lost, to judge from the rest of his face; thin, lank hair falling over his ears, a skull more like a dented bowl then a noble dome, light eyes staring at me with a mixture of suspicion and boredom. In spite of everything, I found him attractive. (I’m a born optimist) Amulet 132-33

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.