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.