Sunday, April 8, 2012

Literature isn't innocent

This is my second Bolano book, one that my man kept suggesting to me with the words, "I promise it is not about decetives." I finally relented and finished this one much, much fast than 2666.

"he theorized that we underprivileged youth were left with no alternative but the literary avant-guard."

The first section of this book follows the diary of 17 year old Juan Garcia Madero, a boy in college in Mexico City in the 70s who quickly gets caught up in the world of the veseral realist poets. It takes him all of about two days to drop out of law school to sit at cafes all day writing poems and hoping to run into these visceral realists. After befriending and joining the poetic movement, Juan becomes romantically involved with a woman in the group, Maria Font, and a waitress. Maria's father is entangled in the fate of a prositute escaping from her pimp and Mr. Font enlists the head visceral realists, Aturo Belano and Ulises Lima.

"Because it is one thing to fool yourself and another thing entirely to feel every body else. The whole visceral realism thing was a love letter, the demented strutting of a dumb bird in the moonlight, something essentially cheap and meaningless."

This sections was written in diary style, with entries for every day, some very short and others several pages long. This was a little different than I expected from Bolano, who in 2666 wrote for pages and pages and pages without so much as a line break.

"But usually I only think of her 4 or 5 times, and each memory, each memory capsule, is approximately 2 minutes long, although I an't say for sure because a little while ago someone stole my watch and keeping time on one's own is risky."

The second section is a huge span of time (twenty years) and told in testimonies from a huge array of characters, all relating their experience with either Belano or Lima or both. They start in Mexico City, searching for information on Cesarea Tinajero, a woman who was a part of a small visceral realist movement in the twenties. The two young men then travel to Europe and travel to Paris, Tel Aviv, Vienna, Barcelona, and back to Mexico (for Lima at least). They live a bohieman hippy artistic lifestyle and interact with an intense array of characters, with the required sketchy characters.

"You can woo a girl with a poem, but you can't hold on to her with a poem. Not even with a poetry movement."

These testimonies are hard to keep track of, some narrators we come back to and some we leave after a few pages. Many were in the stories of others and it was so interesting to see them tell a version of what was happening to another's.

"Which is to day boys, I saw our struggles and dreams all tangled up in the same failure, and that failure was called joy."

The final section again is told in the same way by Juan Garcia Madero as we see the three visceral realists and the prostitute, Lupe, as they travel all over Mexico both searching for Cesarea Tinajero and fleeing from Lupe's pimp. I won't spoil the ending, but the ending is really not the point of this book. To be frank, I would have to go look to see what actually happens with the very end. I remember the climax of part three but after that I am not so sure.

"But poetry (real poetry) is like that: you can sense it, you can feel it in the air, the way they say certain highly attuned animals (snakes, worms, rats, and some birds) can detect an earthquake."

But there is so much of this book, and Bolano's writing style, that I find so incredibly fascinating. I feel like he breaks so many of the rules of good writing I have in my head, and yet I still love it. Reading his work is living having a vivid dream or an intense fever. I have no clue what it means, but I feel so strongly that this is one of the most important writers I have read.

"I was just trying to die as myself, not as an ear on the edge of a chasm."

Also of interest, the character Aturo Belano is in fact the narrator of 2666, which I am not going to lie, blows my mind a bit. I want to read some serious critical anaylisis of these books along with everything else this man has written. I will leave you with this line that is the most beautiful thought:

"(every book in the world is out there waiting to be read by me)"