Monday, June 25, 2007

The second of three books

Right. So where was I?

The first book was Peter Carey's Theft. Which was pretty good.

2. Roberto Bolaño. Everybody's talking about Bolaño these days. Everybody's talking about Savage Detectives. I haven't read it. I have no idea how similar it is to Last Evenings on Earth. Which I did read. And which I loved.

If you haven't already, do check out the bits I excerpted previously:

From "Enrique Martin."
From "Dentist."

Last Evenings is short stories. I'm not much for short stories in general. Maybe it's time I stopped saying that, seeing as how most short stories I encounter turn out to be quite enjoyable. Still I don't generally search them out of my own accord. I should just get over it. But, whatever.

Where was I? Last Evenings. Left me breathless, and aching, and puzzled, and sad — all in a good way. In awe.

I'm reminded very much of Paul Auster, in particular The New York Trilogy and The Red Notebook. There's not much to The Red Notebook — it's filled with anecdotes, mere sketches; it doesn't have much by way of "literary" quality except for being a bunch of neat little stories. But within them are the kernels of all the other stories. It strikes me that Bolaño's stories are grown from such a notebook.

Chance, or destiny. Mysterious phonecalls. Encounters pregnant with meaning. Or not. The question of coincidence. The connections, the causal relations we draw in the active observation of our own life.

The style, too: clipped, telegraphic, to the point. Mostly. At times there's something a little more circumlocutory, a little more European, a little more like Calvino. With lovely, heart-poundingly philosophical digressions.

I'm not sure that the bits I excerpted are a representative sampling of Last Evenings (let alone Bolaño's work as a whole), nor that they adequately demonstrate any point I might be trying to make above.

But Last Evenings on Earth is beautiful, and I'm very keen to read more by Roberto Bolaño.
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