Tough call on this one—a very tough call.
It’s become commonplace for me to begin or end these meager reviews with the caution: Not for everyone. Or, a recommendation to “the few.” The same caveat applies to Varamo; this is not fiction for the casual reader. I know, I know, arrogant, but there it is. For those who are story-dependent, this would not be my first suggestion…or third…or one hundredth. Better, perhaps, is to recommend this one to those who like books about books or writing—FICTION about books or writing. Perhaps fans of Vila-Matas—not that Aira provides a bibliography to be diligently pursued later, but that he compels readers to think about the writing they’re reading.
Those of the ‘show, don’t tell’ school will find the intrusive discussion of free indirect style, well, intrusive. Aira goes on, seeming at length, about its use in the novella, but never really defines it and may leave some readers confused or irritated. Personally, I welcomed the intrusion—anything that casts me back toward James Wood is worth the intrusion. Other readers might disagree.
There’s a lot going on here—a lot that some will consider ‘sloppy.’ It seems to me that that same ‘sloppiness’ is part and parcel of Varamo’s (the character’s) success. The getting-away-with-it feeling that some art provokes (at least in me).
Read it if you will. Deride it if you must. The following review seems to do both. Having already mentioned that Varamo isn't for the story-dependent it now seems odd to warn readers, it contains spoilers.