Bolaño and DeLillo Books
This is my site Written by Alex on June 7, 2011 – 9:23 am   

The painter Peter Young lent me a book by Roberto Bolaño here in Bisbee two years ago. I sat with 2666 for a month and alternately hugged it close and threw it across the room. I ended up loving the book and the writer’s controlled emotional style of writing. I discovered Don DeLillo when a guy on 2nd Avenue was selling books spread out on a blanket on the sidewalk in 1984. “People uptown love this guy!” he said when I handed over $3 for an old copy of Great Jones Street.

Dwight Garner reviews nonfiction from Bolaño called Between Parenthesis — cool title — while amazon.com has a terse page about The Angel Esmeralda,  a first collection of short fiction with nine stories from DeLillo, due out in November. It’s a good day to be a person who loves to read. Enjoy!

Freewheeling Essays, to Be Consumed With a Cocktail

By

BETWEEN PARENTHESES

Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003

By Roberto Bolaño

390 pages. New Directions. $24.95.

“There is a time for reciting poems,” Roberto Bolaño wrote in his libidinous and word-drunk novel “The Savage Detectives” (1998), “and a time for fists.” His nonfiction prose, gathered here for the first time, demonstrates that the swashbuckling Bolaño could declaim and brawl at the same time. He was a lover and a fighter.

The odd jobs and left-handed journalism that fill “Between Parentheses” — the superb title is one that Bolaño selected for one of his Chilean newspaper columns — matter because of the way his novels loom over the past half-century of Latin American fiction. He’s the most controversial and commanding figure to have emerged since Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa began issuing mature work in the early 1960s.

Bolaño died in 2003, from liver failure, at 50. A spectral sense of unfulfilled promise and martyrdom, of being slightly too good for this planet, hovers around his posthumous reputation. In this regard he is something akin to Latin America’s David Foster Wallace. (Both were cerebral, unshaven, uneasy in big cities and under bright lights.) Bolaño’s masterpiece, the novel “2666,” first published in English in 2008, was never quite completed. It, like his career, will be forever pinned with an asterisk.

The excellent thing about “Between Parentheses” is how thoroughly it dispels any incense or stale reverence in the air. It’s a loud, greasy, unkempt thing. Reading it is not like sitting through an air-conditioned seminar with the distinguished Señor Bolaño. It’s like sitting on a barstool next to him, the jukebox playing dirty flamenco, after he’s consumed a platter of Pisco sours. You may wish to make a batch yourself before you step onto the first page.

“Between Parentheses,” which has been adroitly translated by Natasha Wimmer, covers a lot of acreage. There are crunchy bits of autobiography, political laments, disquisitions on food and soccer and women and exile and keeping airplanes afloat with your mind. But books were what mattered most to him, and this one is stuffed with his unruly opinions about world literature, from Twain, Borges and Melville through Philip K. Dick, Walter Mosley and Cormac McCarthy.

Bolaño was a master at shooting spitballs from the back of the classroom, and he made his share of enemies. About the Argentine writer Osvaldo Soriano, whom he calls “a good minor novelist,” he added, “You have to have a brain full of fecal matter to see him as someone around whom a literary movement can be built.” He flicked the novelist Isabel Allende repeatedly behind the ear, observing “the way her writing ranges from the kitsch to the pathetic and reveals her as a kind of Latin American and politically correct version of the author of ‘Valley of the Dolls.’ ”

He had a baroque, seriocomic scorn for Latin American professors at American universities. “To attend dinner with them and their favorites,” Bolaño wrote, “is like gazing into a creepy diorama in which the chief of a clan of cavemen gnaws on a leg while his acolytes nod and laugh.” He made plain his lack of regard for the American writers John Irving, Chuck Palahniuk and Michael Chabon.

Some of the crispest writing in “Between Parentheses,” however, is from the newspaper columns in which he appraised those American writers whose work he clutched to his chest. These included genre masters like Dick, Mr. Mosley, James Ellroy and Thomas Harris. Mr. Harris’s Hannibal Lecter novels may be mass-market best sellers, Bolaño said, “but I wish most contemporary novelists wrote this well.” His riff on Philip K. Dick included this sentence: “Dick is Thoreau plus the death of the American dream.”

Bolaño was only rarely an insightful critic. He too often went for blunderbuss overstatement, ignoring fine distinctions. In these pages he calls Nicanor Parra “the greatest living poet in the Spanish language.” Enrique Lihn is “the best poet of his generation.” Leopoldo María Panero is “one of the three best living poets in Spain.” Rodrigo Rey Rosa’s short stories are “the best of my generation.” Javier Cercas is “one of the best writers in the Spanish language.” You begin to tune this static out.

Bring a machete as well as a cocktail to “Between Parentheses.” There’s underbrush to be slashed. Writing on deadline for a fast paycheck, Bolaño could be windy, and whimsical to the point of absurdity. Sample sentence: “In this uncertain future, our children will watch as the poet asleep in an armchair meets up on the operating table with the black desert bird that feeds on the parasites of camels.”

More often there’s a soulfulness that cuts against his fancifulness and bile. “To a great extent,” he confessed, “everything that I’ve written is a love letter or a farewell letter to my own generation.” He called “The Savage Detectives” a response to “Huckleberry Finn.” How do you recognize a true work of literary art? he asked. His answer: “Easy. Let it be translated. Let its translator be far from brilliant.” Genius can survive even this indignity.

Bolaño’s buzzing mind is a pleasure to dip into. Open this book anywhere and you’ll trip over observations like these: “One is prepared for friendship, not for friends”; “I enjoy vegetarian food the way I enjoy a kick in the stomach”; “Maybe she’d only been Miss Santiago or Miss Burst Into Flames”; “Editors tend to be bad people”; “He had a mother who was less a mother than a gypsy curse.”

The editor of this volume, Ignacio Echevarría, notes that these essays and speeches are entirely from the last years of Bolaño’s life for a simple reason: before 1998, when “The Savage Detectives” was published in Spanish, few had heard of him. His phone did not ring.

Mr. Echevarría makes the case that “Between Parentheses” may be the closest we can get to an autobiography of Bolaño. This may be so, but the self-portrait in this freewheeling and combative book is as distant and blurry (and as hairy) as the supposed footage of Bigfoot. The man behind Bolaño’s masterful novels remains an evocative smudge.

The Angel Esmeralda: Nine Stories [Hardcover]

Don DeLillo

Editorial Reviews

Product Description

The first ever collection of short stories, written between 1979 and 2011, from of our greatest living writers.

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