I started this book back in June before setting it aside, disappointed, and wondering: WTF is going on here? I found it confused and confusing. Did he think exile was real or didn’t he? (He does, or he doesn’t, depending on how he defines exile—writers, on the other hand, seem to be immune to exile as writers can write anywhere they happen to be.)
The speeches which begin this volume were frantic, taking off on tangents, leaving me to wonder what the attendees must have thought as he proceeded through them. The reviews which followed seemed equally frantic: this is the book, this is what I’ll speak to instead (like so many of us GR reviewers often do). I was reminded of Roberto Benigni when he won the Academy Award in 1998. video
(Benigni) (Bolaño) Tell me those two aren’t related. Tell me.
In any case, I waited, restarted the collection and loved it. In addition to the speeches and reviews, there are numerous articles/essays—his thoughts on Melville and Twain, the two authors who tower over American fiction (all American fiction—for Bolaño American fiction is the fiction of the Americas, North, South, Latin, the whole shebang); what amounts to an annotated bibliography of Latin American authors (many of whom he knew); autobiographical information snatched piecemeal from the various volume entries; the Latin American authors who tower over the rest (or should).
Want to know what aspect of DFW Bolaño discussed with Rodrigo Fresán? his prolixity
Want to know what he thought of Chabon and Palahniuk? didn’t care for them
Want to know what he thought about Grombowicz? Aira? Neruda? Whitman? Marías? read the book.
Originally, I thought this volume would be of only archival interest; something for those who wanted to read absolutely everything Bolaño wrote. It’s more than that—it’s a celebration—presented in what I’ve come to consider Bolaño’s fevered, passionate, hectic, all too brief way. One for Bolaño’s fans and those who have an interest in Latin American literature. If I have a complaint, and I guess I do, is that the Preface makes it clear that the volume isn’t complete. My question remains: why the hell not? At least, it’s not something I can blame on the author.