Bolano’s 2666

So I read 2666 with the Infinite Summer crowd, and posted here, weekly, my favorite quotes and my growing disenchantment with the novel.

And nobody in the whole wide world noticed that I stopped reading 50 pages from the end. Just fizzled out 840+ pages into a book…and don’t know when, if ever, I’ll pick it up again.

I’m glad I engaged with Bolano’s massive undertaking but I just didn’t like the text. Some moments, sure, but they were few, far between, and underleveraged. I’ll try Savage Detective some day. After the long list of books already recommended to me, and the stuff sitting in my pile of “the second I get a chance I’m reading this.” And after I finish some journal submissions. And client work. And another novel.

Maybe in 2026.

Bolano 2666 quote of the week (15)

Ugh, This is the third time I’ve tried to write this post…each time something crashes and my response to the week’s reading is lost to the ether.

And it bears saying, I’m not excited enough about the reading to fuel three posts. So here’s the abbreviated version:

It’s terrifically hard to get engaged in The Part About Archimboldi, following as it does The Part About The Crimes. This week’s reading includes a terribly disturbing history of a small German town that receives an accidental shipment of Jews bound for concentration camps…the narration and inner monologues here are creepy and compelling and human and disgusting and exactly what I wanted in The Part About the Crimes. I wanted to be compelled to look and be horrified at what I saw. In the Crimes, however, I got a laundry list of dead bodies. In Archimboldi I read the personal account of the avoidance of bodies. Shudder-inducing and brilliantly written.

Nazis and Communists, soliders and writers, this section scurries through history, pausing occasionally to sniff at some man who means something to Hans Reiter. In the way that The Part About the Crimes ignores the sociopolitical forces that conspire to murder women in Santa Teresa, The Part About Archimboldi breezes by a lot of historical data to leer at naked bodies and tormented minds.

And its all more readable than the rest of the novel. But it’s almost too late.

Says the man who dispatched a whole town to murder groups of Jews day after day after day:

“I was a fair administrator. I did good things, guided by my instincts, and bad things, driven by the vacissitudes of war. But now the drunken Polish boys will open their mouths and say I ruined their childhoods, said Sammer to Reiter. Me? I ruined their childhoods? Liquor ruined their childhoods! Soccer ruined their childhoods! Those lazy shiftless mothers ruined their childhoods! Not me” (767).

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (13)

This week’s quote parallels my experience reading this week’s section:

“Then the one-eyed man shifted in his chair, pulled a blanket up to his chin, and said: our commander”s name was Korolenko and he died the same day. Then, at supersonic speed, Ansky imagined Verbitsky and Korolenko, he saw Korolenko mocking Verbintsky, heard what Korolenko said behind Vebitnsky’s back, entered into Verbitnsky’s night thoughts, Korolenko’s desires, into each man’s vague and shifting dreams, into their convictions and their rides on hoseback, the forests they left behind and the flooded lands they crossed, the sounds of night in the open and the unintelligible morning conversations before they mounted again. He saw villages and farmland, he saw churches and hazy clouds of smoke rising on the horizon, until he came to the day when they both died, Verbintsky and Korolenko, a perfectly gray day, utterly gray, as if a thousand-mile-long cloud had passed over the land without stopping, endless. At that moment, which hardly lastted a second, Ansky decided that he didn’t want  to be a soldier, but at the very same moment the officer handed him a paper and told him to sign. Now he was a soldier” (709).

The section is written as though dreamed, and it flows by in a second, and I decide I don’t want to engage anymore, but there I am, done with the reading and left in a new state, knowing and bewildered.

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (12)

Hans Reiter is a child of the water, in a one-eyed, one-legged family. Mmmmkay.  Diving, swimming, drowning, enlisting, befriending, spying, and a woman obsessed with Aztecs. Mmmmmmkay.

This is the sense I’ve missed since Amalfitano, but I just can’t get engaged. Is this the guy who winds up, somehow, in the prison in Santa Teresa? From this?:

“Then his mother stared at him with her blue eye and the boy held her gaze with his two blue eyes, and from the corner near the hearth, the one-legged man watched them both with his two blue eyes and for three or four seconds the island of Prussia seemed to rise from the depths” (644).

Somehow via the Third Reich?

“It was around this time, as they walked under the sun or the gray clouds, enormous, endless gray clouds that brought tidings of a fall to remember, and his battalion left behind village after village, that Hans imagined that under his Wehrmacht uniform he was wearing the suit or garb of a madman” (670).

Makes me think of Amaranta in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Rosa in House of the Spirits. Not through any clear parallel, but as a cyan negative to their passion and vitality.

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (11)

Ah, the Crimes. Bye bye, crimes. What I have gleaned from your voluminous horror is that life is nasty, brutish, and short, and that while we devalue women and throw the in the trash in death, we spend not one moment thinking about their lives in the maquiladores. We benefit from the economic system in which they are disposable, and then we are horrified when they are disposed.

Good, good times, international economy.

And while the violence against men is much more frequent, we hole it up in prisons and boxing matches, creating a compartmentalized culture of viciousness that we then shug off and romanticize. Raping and murdering women is somehow both terrible and ignorable, while raping and murdering men is at once terrible and expected.

Good, good times, penal system. Panopticon, indeed. Fetishizing gaze and violence…yeehaw.

Finally, in the congresswoman’s story, we get to the center of at least one of the murders…actual investigation, revelations, seedy underbelly of a culture. But even that ends without resolution, unsatisfactorily.


“Every life, Epifanio said that night to Lalo Cura, no matter how happy it is, ends in pain and suffering. That depends, said Lalo Cura. Depends on what, champ? On lots of things, said Lalo Cura. Say you’re shot in the back of the head, for example, and you don’t hear the motherfucker come up behind you, then you’re off to the next world, no pain, no suffering. Goddamn kid, said Epifanio. Have you ever been shot in the back of the head?” (511).

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (10)

Ah, 2666. Your methodical recording of misogyny, legal incompetence, and cultural neglect of humanity continues unabated. Way to stick with it, really. I couldn’t write this telescopic focus on a dump alongside a border town that could be a symbol for all that is wrong with trade and consumerism and capitalism and the war on drugs and tiered social systems that offer as little hope as a caste system for 400+ pages. Congratulations?

In going back over this section, I noted, as Dan Summers does over at bleakonomy, the despicable blathering of civil servants over breakfast: two full pages of jokes about beating women, complete with standards about belonging in the kitchen, having no brain, and being useful only for sex. Social tradition noted, vapid machismo noted, and nausea calmed only slightly by watching the linguistic choices in the passage. The repeated call and answer format of the so-called jokes, the Spanglish convention of beginning the answers with pues, and the increased violence of these particular jokes over the standards in the U.S. were all notable. But what a despicable way to spend two pages, which David calls the nadir of the novel’s misogyny, to depict the officers spending the time after the long day at work. The long day in which they assume, if a murder victim had red toenail polish she must have been a whore (520).

Dan also notes the interesting and welcome interlude about Lalo Cura’s family history of intensely resilient outsider matriarchs. Rape, thrive, rape, thrive, rape, thrive. While I’m not entirely sure about celebrating “good nature and the fortitude to endure periods of violence or extreme poverty” (555) because I much prefer generation stories of women kicking ass instead of enduring ass-kickings, but at this point I am fully aware that the Exposito women’s ability to make it out alive is more than most characters of the novel can claim. I’m really beginning to hate this depiction Mexico, I have to be honest, but I do appreciate the flavor of Marquez and of Allende in these passages. Of, if we went away with one of these women instead of tripping over the bodies of the narrative’s bodycount drumbeat.

In this section, too, we finally start seeing the narcos and their influence on the incompetence of the so-called authorities of Santa Teresa. “It seemed the police had fallen afoul of some big fish whose sons, the Jrs. off Santa Teresa, owned almost the entire fleet of the city’s Peregrinos (it was a car of choice for rich kids, like the Arcangel or Desertwind convertible), and they pulled strings to get the cops to stop fucking with them” (530).  Well, of course. One thread running through at least 20% of the murders are black Peregrinos, so closing off investigation of that connection is a great choice for the rich kids and another slap on the face of the brutalized and decomposing bodies in the dump. “When the neighbors were asked who lived in the house, their answers were contradictory, which made the patrolmen think it could be narcos and they’d better leave and not make trouble” (530).

So buried within 400+ pages of crimes, we see what the authorities can’t or won’t: suspects, motive, pattern of criminal behavior. The curtain wasn’t drawn too tightly, but at least Bolano led us to the corner and let us peek behind it before drawing us back into the narrative of confusion and helplessness. Others notice this, too, as reporters begin to ask “some questions out loud. If the murderer was behind bars, who had killed all these other women? If the killer’s lackeys or accomplices were behind bars, too, who was responsible for all these deaths? To what extent were Los Bisontes, that terrible and improbable youth gang, a real phenomenon and to what extent were they a police creation?” (559).

Good questions. Better question: when will we get to Archimboldi? Two weeks? Okay. But that’s all you get.  I’m so very done with the Crimes, with poverty, with misogyny, with rampant death, with ignoring the international implications of a maquiladores economy for the residents and the consumers. Get me outta here.

A special thanks to the people who made this post possible (other than Dan and David, whose posts reassured me that my addled brain is at least on the right section, if not making sense): to Hazelnut for actually sleeping for the half hour it took to write this, to Peanut and Spouse for playing so nicely so I could type without interruption, and to my mom for making dinner so I could take advantage of the Hazelnut nap. Yay team Nap. Ya made me feel like a human for half an hour!

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (9)

The Part About the Crimes continued last week with a telling interaction between Sergio Gonzalez and his bedmate:
“As he was talking the whore yawned, not because she wasn’t interested in what he was saying but because she was tired, which irritated Sergio and made him say, in exasperation, that in Santa Teresa they were killing whores, so why not show a little professional solidarity, to which the whore replied that he was wrong, in the story as he had told it the women dying were factory workers, not whores. Workers, workers, she said. And then Sergio apologized, as, as if a lightbulb had gone on over his head, he glimpsed an aspect of the situation that until now he’d overlooked” (466).

So now we are brought face to face with the reality…the maquiladores produce tax-free exports, primarily for the U.S. The women who work there are disposable, and not only do the Mexican communities ignore their brutal murders, but the consumers in the United States, complicit in the womens’ low-wage employment, have never even heard about their mass deaths. Disposable economy, disposable humanity. Right there in the whore’s bed we are taken to task about how we value things over people, consumption over people.

Geez, this is a fun text, she typed wryly, trying to wrestle her guilt back into the closet as the bodies in 2666 pile up in the dumps, a grotesque metaphor of our disposal of everything we have no need for, including Mexican women. “What surprised the reporters most,” though not any reader who has been paying attention, “was that no one claimed or acknowledged the body” (467).


Lalo Cura finally figures out the town is run by narcos, Epifanio brings the misogyny in the novel to a new low by noting that a clerk was wearing a skirt and high heels and therefore must be sleeping with her boss (474), and Klaus Haas presents an interesting German figure that begins the “is he or isn’t he” wait for The Part about Archimboldi.

And finally, Florita’s crowning achievement, “to introduce the other women, who had something important to say. Then the WSDP activists stepped up to talk about the climate of impunity in Santa Teresa, the laxity of the police, the corrupttion, and the number of dead women, which had been constantly on the rise since 1993” (505). Of course, we are quickly ushered away from this scene of awareness toward a discussion of film, J.D. Salinger, and L.A. the rest of the week’s section shows the police solving several crimes, none of which involves women or murders. Because stolen cars are a priority, after all.

I despise myself for wanting The Part about the Crimes to end, because it should go on, every day, with body after body piling up until I can’t take it and actually DO something. But for now I’m writhing in discomfort watching nothing get done and wishing I could have Archimboldi or Amalfitano back for a while. That frustrating, incessant journalistic narrative march of case after unsolved case is clearly doing its job. I may have to retract my criticism of Bolano because this tactic is working. I am not growing numb to the deaths. I am increasingly uncomfortable.

Just what I need right now.

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (8)

Know what? I knew I’d get tired of murders and rapes and detached listing of such. But this morning while flipping through this week’s reading, in which I highlighted not one single line of text as remarkable, NPR had a segment on the murders in Juarez. Not a clever fictionalized version, but a detailing of the gross incompetence, the terror, the pervasive powerlessness, the futility of life there. And I wanted to vomit. I cried for a while, and I realized that, had I not already read the whole Part about the Crimes, I would stop this book right now.

I have finished the section, and did so only to get to Archimboldi. So I’ll post quotes in their appropriate weeks, and emotionally rejoin you when you climb out of Santa Teresa. I offer you no analysis or thoughts this week because this has ceased to be a project I enjoy. I feel like a witness to a crime who has chosen to stay silent and I’m chagrined.

2666 quote of the week (7)

You know what? I’m tired of finding quotes in this book. It’s a little game I began with Infinite Jest last summer because I was rereading the book and found some passages so compelling, so central, so clever, or so erudite that I needed to share. Needed to share.

With Bolano’s 2666? I’m kind of over the quotes. Because the novel is both compelling and frustrating, and I don’t want to retype. I want to read and, honestly, finish this damned thing and move on.

The Part about the Crimes: I read the first twenty pages and got pissed, so I went back and made some notes about the chapter’s foci. Nine pages of short descriptions wherein women’s bodies are found dumped unceremoniously, scant details are collected, and cases are closed without substantive investigation. Some of the murders are similar, some are not. Nine pages. Then twelve pages on a guy peeing in churches. Back to the women for three pages. And the serial urinator for three. You know what? I don’t need to be hit over the head with a mallet to know this book is about misogyny. But the mallet is there, nonetheless: “The attacks on [the churches] San Rafael and San Tadeo got more attention in the local press than the women killed in the preceeding months” (366).

Shocking? Nope. The religion dominating the area is well known for being, despite its commandment against false idols, one that supports worship of consecrated land and general disdain for women.

My fury over the casual disregard of hundreds of brutalized and composting women whose lives seem completely meaningless is provoked by the text to make a point. The murderers dump the bodies, the establishment dumps any responsibility for understanding or preventing further deaths. The culture is more fascinated by and upset about symbolic destruction of religion than by actual destruction of humans. Blasphemy is more important than murder. A post-Neitzschean dead God is valued but a postmodern woman is not. Saw that coming a thousand miles away, when the critics flew into Santa Teresa.

Gotta tell you, I’m more than a little angry about the casual discarding of women’s bodies by the murderers and of women’s stories by the narrator. Chalk up this week’s frustration to being way far ahead in the reading and less willing to leaf through 50 pages of macabre bullshit, to being nine months pregnant and a bit protective of women and girls everywhere, or to being frustrated that, while this is a good text that I believe is valuable and necessary, is not the right read for me in search of post-Wallace, post-postmodern enlightenment. But the anger is supposed to move me to action, to changing the state of affairs. To helping, to expressing outrage, to making a difference. And how the f— am I supposed to do that?

I’m just saying…this section pisses me off. I know it’s supposed to. That doesn’t help.

“But somewhere along the way something happened or something went permanently wrong and afterward her mother was told there was a chance she had run off with a man. She’s only sixteen, said her mother, and she’s a good girl. Forty days later some children found her body near a shack in Colonia Maytoprena. Her left hand rested on some guaco leaves. Due to the state of the body, the medical examiner was unable to determine the cause of death. One of the policemen present at the removal of the body, however, was able to identify the guaco plant. It’s good for mosquito bites, he said, crouching down and plucking some little green leaves, pointed and tough.” (375.)

Bolano 2666 quote of the week (6)

This week’s reading succeeds in showing, rather than telling, Bolano’s intentions regarding Santa Teresa. “The Part about Fate” grows darker, more labyrinthine, misogynistic, bigoted, befuddled, surreal, and violent as we follow Fate around city, to the fight and a bar-hopping and city-encircling drive that grows increasingly menacing until he leaves with Rosa.

The section, the novel, the story of the crimes are twisted, hidden, dark, and ignored in favor of bluster and ignorant banter, which makes the characters in this section almost unbearable. As Rosa Amalfitano notes, “they seem right, they seem authentic, but they’re actually full of shit” (327). Oscar Amalfitano recognizes this, just as he clearly recognizes his own descent into madness (332). Like Seale in Detroit, Chucho and the other men Fate talks with in Mexico present their existential theories based on nothing; they mislead and confuse and cloak, which leaves both Fate and the reader more and more distanced from the city’s reality.

The sense of Fate having landed on a Martian landscape is reinforced each time he calls New York and someone who doesn’t sound quite right deflects and avoids; when his editor refuses to hear him; when the voice seems a million miles away. This section, as with the others, is well written, expertly crafted, intriguing, and intelligent. But Hobbesian in the “nasty, brutish, and short” life way, with booze and beatings and drugs and sex and talking all taking on characteristics of being dirty and dangerous and heavy handed and curtained yet cartoonish. This section’s metaphor lies in El Rey del Taco; and in the fight arena where Fate can’t find who is calling him; and on the maze-like dark streets and the closed doors and the dreams that swirl in and out of waking.

The same foreboding that clings to the end of The Part about Amalfitano lingers at the end of Fate’s section…was the black car Amalfitano spied outside waiting for Rosa? Will Fate get her out of the city? And is that imprisoned suspect Archimboldi? Bolano has a Dickensonian facility with cliffhangers.

Quote of the section, I think, is:
“The tone, he thought, was solemn and defiant, the battle hymn of a lost war sung in the dark. In the solemnity there was only desperation and death, but in the defiance there was a hint of corrosive humor, a humor that existed only in relation to itself and in dreams, no matter whether the dreams were long or short. Sonoran jazz” (308).

Your reactions?

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.

what about your weekend, punk?

You’re all talk, Naptime, about how much work you have and the things you need to accomplish on the weekend when Spouse, the only child care option you have, is available to weather the 4-year-old storm for a bit. So what’d you accomplish, punk?

Finish your articles?
Not really. One is 98% there and if I’d only proofread and double check my sources I’d be done. But then there’s the submission process and that seems daunting enough to put the thing off another year. The other, half-done article, is such a mess on paper and so freaking genius in my head that I just don’t know if I can reconcile the two before baby brain takes over. Again, I just need a solid weekend. But my sitting and thinking skills ain’t what they used to be.

Did you revise your book?
Yup. Last weekend. Total overhaul. Need a new title, though, so the new and improved version can go out to agents who might notice it’s just rearranged. Any suggestions are welcome, even though you haven’t read the danged thing. Seems that’s the way they name most novels, anyway.

Well, okay. Did you finish Peanut’s art project that you started a year ago?

Edit any of the 34 hours of Peanut footage you keep swearing to send grandparents?

Did you do anything of use, now that you mention it?
Well, snarky-pants, it just so happens I did. You read about the nightmare with the cat worms that included a day of steam cleaning the house in scratch-the-skin-off-my-body-and-buy-all-new-furniture horror. Well this weekend was two hours at the incompetent vet (yes, again) for a condescending variety of friendly ramblings, concluded by her asking whether, if we have a boy, we will circumscribe him. I guess she meant drawing the circle around him in the co-sleeper, so I said no. I might write circles around him in the crib when he or she moves to Peanut’s room, but I left it at “no; there’s no reason to.” Didn’t see the need to draw out a discussion about circumscription, since it’s so fraught with emotion.

Spouse and I also made huge headway on our organic garden by building a raised bed—6×6 extravaganza of…well, for now just wood and protective mesh screening. Soon it will have dirt and our awesome compost. Then it will have spinach and basil and carrots and strawberries and squash and cukes and such things. But for now it’s prepped. The best part was building in the rain, while Peanut played in the huge teepee we just built him. (Building semi-permanent forts sounds really good but takes way more time and energy that I believe my child is worth, but really tall bamboo teepees are freaking easy enough to finish in about 20 minutes. 8′ diameter, 6′ tall. $20. 20 minutes. My kind of building.)

I also read 2666 (next post) for the group read and got frighteningly far ahead. Must go write my assessment of The Part about Fate, which I freaking loathed. Suffice it to say that even brilliant writers need to know their limits, and Chilean/Mexican/Spaniard novelists need not try to capture the creakily-aged Black Panther movement in Detroit. Even if they succeed in making some of it funny, relevant, and thoughtful. It was like reading from inside a cubist painting. A very well done cubist painting. But still.

I wiped the hard drive of the computer that crashed AGAIN (shakes fist and grouses incoherently at Microsoft, the voodoo doll for which is coming soon) and have almost got all the backup docs and software restored. Once my software finishes updating I will have all the preschool fundraiser stuff for this week done.

Got a haircut. Completed several towers and puzzles with Peanut. Cleaned out the freezer. Wrote another novel. (Kidding. I rearranged the freezer. Big difference.)

So. I made inroads on changing the world by growing food at home, and am done preparing the house for babe. I just didn’t make any progress on the stuff that will win me fortune and fame. And that reminds me, I need to submit my game show application soon so I can win and actually afford to live here. Unless people figure out there’s as much profit in killing game show winners as there is in killing lottery winners.

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (4)

I’m not behind on my reading, but I certainly am on the blogging here and at, where they’re discussing 2666 over the course of 2666 hours.

[If what follows is derivative of the opinions blogged by the 2666 reading group, including our dear bleakonomy friend, so be it. I’m offering my first reaction and will go read their posts in a minute. i felt pretty lame last time offering a thin response to the richest sections only to find the other readers providing in-depth commentary, but such are the limitations of my life right now. I’m not writing a paper on this thing. I barely have time to read it.]

So. “The Part about Amalfitano.” Oh, my fair readers, I’m glad I made it to this section. *This* is why I agreed to tackle this novel with bits and parts of the erudite Infinite Summer group, and why magical realism is one of my favorite stylistic inclinations. This section leaves behind those self-absorbed critics and engages in the ponderous, the surreal, and the spooky. Hope the rest of the novel continues along this vein.

“For a second he thought it was all a lie, that Lola was working as an administrative assistant or secretary in some big company. Then he saw it clearly. he saw the vacuum cleaner parked between two rows of desks, saw the floor waxer like a cross between as mastiff and a pig sitting next to a plant, he say an enormous window through which the lights of Paris blinked, he saw Lola in the cleaning company’s smock, a worn blue smock, sitting writing the letter and maybe taking slow drags on a cigarette, he saw Lola’s fingers, Lola’s wrists, Lola’s blank eyes, he saw another Lola reflected in the quicksilver of the window, floating weightless in the skies of Paris, like a trick photograph that isn’t a trick, floating, floating pensively in the skies of Paris, weary, sending messages from the coldest iciest realm of passion” (182).

I don’t think I’ve read an author in a long time who writes scenery and visions and mirages as well as this.

But he’s awfully good at dialogue, as well, as in my favorite scene about the most awesome geometry-book weathering experiment:

“It isn’t mine, said Amalfitano. It doesn’t matter, Rosa said, it’s yours now. It’s funny, said Amalfitano, that’s how I should feel, but I really don’t have the sense it belongs to me, and anyway I’m almost sure I’m not doing it any harm. Well, pretend it’s mine and take it down, said Rosa, the neighbors are going to think you’re crazy. The neighbors who top their walls with broken glass? They don’t even know we exist, said Amalfitano, and they’re a thousand times crazier than me. no, not them, said Rosa, the other ones, the ones who can see exactly what’s going on in our yard. Have any of them bothered you? asked Amalfitano. No, said Rosa. Then it’s not a problem, said Amalfinato, it’s silly to worry about it when much worse things are happening in this city than a book being hung from a cord. Two wrongs don’t make a right, said Rosa, we’re not animals. Leave the book alone, pretend it doesn’t exist, forget about it, said Amalfitano, you’ve never been interested in geometry” (196).

The illogical nonsequitors in these characters’ dialogue, which read so logically, are my favorite part of this novel. And this passage has two nonsequitor retorts that honestly sound exactly the way people talk…just ludicrous.

This section was simply dreamy.

Bolano 2666 quote of the week (3)

So many to choose from. I have to admit I’ll be glad to be rid of the critics, but this week had several intriguing quotes. So. Vote if you feel like it.

1) “…he, in his own way, like Schwob in Samoa, had already begun a voyage, a voyage that would end not in the grave of a brave man but in a kind of resignation in any ordinary sense of the word, or even patience or conformity, but rather a state of meekness, a refined and incomprehensible humility that made him cry for no reason and in which his own image, what Morini saw as Morini, gradually and helplessly dissolved, like a river that stops being a river or a tree that burns on the horizon, no knowing that it’s burning” (107).

2) “It was as if the light were buried in the Pacific Ocean, producing an enormous curvature of space. It made a person hungry to travel in that light, although also, and maybe more insistently thought Norton, it made you want to bear your hunger until the end” (110-11).
[one of the best descriptions of the Sonoran desert I’ve ever read.]

3) “And yet your shadow isn’t following you anymore. At some point your shadow has quietly slipped away. You pretend you don’t notice, but you have, you’re missing your fucking shadow, though there are plenty of ways to explain it, the angle of the sun, the degree of oblivion induced by the sun beating down on hatless heads, the quantity of alcohol ingested, the movement of something like subterranean tanks of pain, the fear of more contingent things, a disease that begins to become more apparent, wounded vanity, the desire just for once in your life too be on time. But the point is, your shadow is lost and you, momentarily forget it. And so you arrive on a kind of stage, without your shadow, and you start to translate reality or reinterpret it or sing it” (121).

[This third quote is hands-down my favorite, made even more poignant by Norton’s painfully ignorant and heartless proclamation that she didn’t understand a word of it. Nothing thus far has made me like her less.]

Bolano’s 2666 quote of the week (2)

This week’s reading is at once slower and more explosive than last week’s. I’m still intrigued, but far from being in love.

“Naturally, Norton was happy to hear from him and to learn he was in the city and at the agreed-upon time she appeared in the hotel lobby, where Morini, sitting in his wheelchair with a package on his lap, was patiently and impassively deflecting the flow of guests and visitors that convulsed the lobby in an ever-changing display of luggage, tired faces, perfumes trailing after meteroidian bodies, bellhops with their stern jitters, the philosophical circles under the eyes of the manager or associate manager, each with his brace of assistants radiating freshness, the same freshness of eager sacrifice emitted by young women (in the form of ghostly laughter), which Morini tactfully chose to ignore. When Norton got there they left for a restaurant in Notting Hill, a Brazilian vegetarian restaurant she had recently discovered.” (95)

I’m usually not a setting person and prefer to get straight to dialogue and character development, but this image of Morini in a stream of humanity compels with its uneven pacing and jump-cut imagery.

Head over to for erudite discussions.