Surely, everyone has discerned by now that I am a fool for this novel.
I admit that as much as I admired the first two parts, I was a little lonely for some plot. I know. I know. That is like looking at a Willem de Kooning and asking, “But can he draw?” So you are going to have to take my word on this. I am a very sophisticated, artsy kind of guy. But even I was hungry for a more traditional story after the first two parts. Roberto Bolaño must have heard my mutterings ten years before I muttered them. This sort of thing can happen in his world, you know. I am sure that he said something like this:
Plot? You mean like opening, development, anti-climax, climax, and conclusion? You mean like story line? (He spat the words “story line.”) Yeah, I can give you that, Steve. I have settled enough scores with those other writers I detest–for the time being anyway. But I am going to give it to you on my own terms. This kind of thing bores me. I am going to have to amuse myself while I do this.
I love film noir. I am going to start with a voice-over speaking in retrospect as we pan in on a journalist at his desk in New York. But I need to add a degree of difficulty to something that I could otherwise do in my sleep. I need a challenge. I am going to make this journalist African-American. Let’s see if I can do black characters from the United States of America. I honestly don’t know myself whether I can.
I am going to give my main character a cheaply evocative name like John Shaft. He is not going to be a John Shaft though. Isaac Hayes is not going to be singing in the background. He is just going to be a black guy with a bad stomach.
Just for fun, I am going to adopt a totally different style of writing. I am going to channel Don Ernesto, giving you for the most part only the facts of what happens. I am not going to give you hints as to how you ought to feel. Let’s see if by doing that and only that, I can create some suspense. Maybe I can get some real emotion out of you as you read this. This is going to be poetry of an entirely different kind.
I have always admired Camus’ The Stranger. That opening with Mersault amid the aftermath of his mother’s death is good stuff. Mersault’s response to his own mother’s death is so flat. I am going to open this novel with my main character in the aftermath of his own neglected mother’s death. I think I can do it better than Camus did. . . .
And on he blathered. And I found it to be one helluva ride.