Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Maddening, Exasperating, and Tedious: People Can't Get Enough of Bolano

The verdict is in: everyone liked The Savage Detectives but me -- although not without a few chirps of qualification.

Jennifer Reese in Entertainment Weekly buckled down and made herself like the damn thing: "I never would've persevered to the end of the late Roberto Bolaño's sometimes wonderful, often maddening 577-page novel, The Savage Detectives, if I were not paid to do so."

Ben Richards in The Guardian also delivers a rave -- although you'd never know it by the rather lengthy following caveat: "At times the obsession with the role of enfant provocateur, which surfaces repeatedly in Bolano's fiction, becomes tiresome...It is also easy to become exasperated with the poets depicted in Bolano's work, who are of a particular type that treads dangerously close to cliche. They are itinerant, they steal books, they walk the city at night, they read in the shower, they screw and scowl and drink and brawl and pick up scabies from cheap dives. We rarely get any insight into what they actually write or think about poetry, beyond their railings against predictable enemies such as Octavio Paz and Pablo Neruda. This is accompanied by endless dropping of literary names, usually of French surrealists. And because Bolano identifies himself so clearly with them, one's exasperation extends sometimes to the author. He has described The Savage Detectives as a "love-letter to his generation". Fair enough, but it's a partly imagined generation that does not seem very broadly conceived; the uncharitable might describe the novel more as a love-letter to Roberto Bolano."

Ben, you've got my number.

Chris Beha at The Huffington Post is nuts about the book, too; he loves it even when it's boring him into a coma: "Bolano has the ability, unmatched perhaps since Beckett, to bring his readers to the very edge of tedium, only to meet them there with a gesture of transcendent sublimity."


Sharif said...

interesting. I haven't read Savage.. yet, but I thought Last Evenings on Earth was great. It took me few stories to find him exciting. What do you think of his other works? Maybe he is a better short story writer.

Chapualqo said...

Besides ideological criticism to the novel, I find the "tedious" argument unsupported, or supported just by the number of pages. What novel where they reading?
And well, Bolaño is a good short story writer. And a great novelist too. Just read the Savage Detectives and make your own opinion, dont make the mistake of missing it just because of some minoritary criticism