Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (5)

Ah, “The Part about Fate.” I was pleased with the introduction to Quincy, and was ready to read on about him, but Bolano baited and switched for Oscar Fate, whom, I have to be honest, I almost loath. The man whose intimate moments open the section just doesn’t seem to be the same man whose nom de plume gives this chapter a sense of faux purpose. This meandering, lost chapter may be about Fate, but it doesn’t ring true about fate. And when I wasn’t careful, it drew me into some appalling dark corners that I’d rather shine a light on than hide in.

That Fate barfs through most of this week’s reading is pretty much spot on where I was in forcing myself to complete the section. “I don’t know, I don’t feel very well, if I felt better I’m sure I could figure it out,” (244). Clearly it’s not just me. Could be my fear of the next section, distaste aimed at a variety of things in my life while I read. But I think not. I think this section is overreaching and strikes chords that sing out “I’m supposed to be important or funny” instead of actually being insightful or funny.

Really, my first thought was, what does this Chilean author, who has been masterful with southern Arizona and northern Mexico (what I know of them, anyway), know about aging Black Panthers in Detroit? Yes, some people, particularly those in political and social movements, are caricatures. But seriously?
“As you all know, said Seaman, pork chops saved my life” (250). Seaman goes on to detail his nonsensical life philosophy and cholesterol-free recipes using relatively large amounts of butter in them. Funny if I’m in a good mood. Bordering on annoying stupidity if I’m not. The author, as always, is quite engaging. His characters and what they say, throughout this week’s section, are irritating.

Seaman’s half page on metaphors about stars is another example. If I were grading a stack of typical freshman English papers, this would strike me as hilarious because it does highlight how inane most humans are, especially while pontificating. As it is, I’m not teaching this semester and found Seaman’s totally asinine view of metaphors sad, trying, and indicative of a whole culture of bullshit. That is, of course, the point. American pseudo-intellectual, self-help, social change culture is bullshit. But that strikes way too close to home, and made me resent this week’s reading.

So, fine, I’ll bite. let’s travel with Fate to Mexico to see if humans are somehow more…human…there. The illogical diatribes south of the border, a few pages later, are just as lame and hollow and misinformed. Humanity is screwed because we’ll all too stupid to live, really, is what I got from the beginning of The Part about Fate. Chucho and Charly are just as reprehensible as Barry Seaman. Reinforcing this frothing aura of stupidity and human foibles writ large is the abhorrent sport of choice…boxing…in which humanity’s worst instincts and natures come out for a modern version of bear baiting.

So this section is rife with racism, misogyny, and bullshit. Great. Can I get back to Quincy Williams and his intimate moments after his mother’s death? Please?

So this week’s quote? All I have, really, is the second-hand assertion that
“There’s no place on earth with more dumb girls per square foot than a college in California” (288). As with everything else in this section, it’s so wrong and so offensive and so pinpoint accurate and so galling that I don’t know where to go except to agree. And that’s the pain of The Part about Fate. We’re led, unless we shake our head to clear it after every sentence, to believe and feel and watch bullshit of our own volition.

Glad I’m forcing myself to continue, because this is too small a section in a huge book to break me. But it’s trying.

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8 thoughts on “Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (5)

  1. I’ve gotten to the point where I simply glide through bits that make no sense to me. You can toss the entirety of Seaman’s sermon (or whatever you care to call it) into that bucket.

    I think maybe Bolaño’s point (maybe) is that most of the motions we go through in life and most of what we tell ourselves to make it through are patently absurd and meaningless in the face of the appalling realities of life (embodied by the crimes). I also thoroughly disliked Fate (queasy homophobe that he is), but he’s thus far the only character who seems at all interested in the reality of the crimes. So we’ll see where this goes, I suppose.

  2. I’m glad I’m not alone on this week’s reading. I get a feeling (that I can’t necessarily justify) from folks’s comments that they finally feel like the book is picking up, and it’s just not that way at all for me. I agree with you about the opening section of this Part, but all the rest just felt so caustic. I admit that I cracked up at the culmination of Seaman’s ruminations on metaphor, but even that was so clearly at the character’s expense that it’s not the kind of laughter that feels good. If the point really is going to be that we’ve all failed each other by allowing the real world to correspond in any cognizable degree to the world described in the book—well, I already know that. I don’t really want to spend my time rubbing my own nose in it.

    • Oh, Jeff, I was feeling a bit alone in the acid bath. How reassuring that you felt this Part caustic, too (and thanks for offering that articulation because it’s quite evocative for the discomfort of this section). Sure the metaphor section is funny, and I laughed at first, too, but dang the hammer got heavy by the end.
      Instead of hitting my stride with this section, I was really sad that Amalfitano went away just as we were swirling in his spiral. I liked the voices and the uncertainty and the clearly foreboding sinister of the last few pages. The readers who like him can have Fate. I want the professor back.
      And I agree with the “if that flashing beacon of a moral to this story is really the whole point I want my money back so I can go home and hate myself for free” dread. Please, please have something more than a shame on all of us waiting after the next 600 pages.

  3. You can have Amalfitano back as long as you share. That was easily my favorite part of the book so far; I’d read a whole book like the Part About Amalfitano, but if not for the Table of Contents’s reassurance that the parts about the Critics and Fate ended, I’d have dropped 2666 a few times already.

    • Ah, Jeff, I’m right there with you. I started the novel because I thought the whole thing would be like The Part about Amalfitano. (I will admit to a flawed education in philosophy and the classics, so his lists and hypnotic doodles were a bit lost on me, but I’m willing to roll with it…i just assume there’s something both universal and farcical in those lists and I keep reading.) Of course I’ll share. I have no reason to keep great writing to myself.
      I am, honestly, only still going to get to Archimboldi. If there were a way to skip Crimes—which I’m guessing with no reason for such an assumption is gonna be gnarly—I would.

  4. Definitely agree with what you stated. Your explanation was certainly the easiest to understand. I tell you, I usually get irked when folks discuss issues that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail right on the head and explained out everything without complication. Maybe, people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks.

    [editor's note: seriously? This is the spam you put on a site where people are discussing literature? Mmmmmmkay. But I'm deleting all the links you pasted in, you spammy bastard.]

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