Ah, the pit of despair as Daryl so eloquently put it below. I’ve been wondering just where I was! I have to admit that I bit off a bit too much this first quarter of 2010. I believed I could take on an extra project at the office, serve on a grant review panel, read 2666, participate in the forums and post at least occasionally as part of the Zombies crew. What the hell was I thinking? Well, the extra project is finished, the funding recommendations have been made, and this is the first week I’ve been on schedule with the reading (actually slightly ahead). High time to finally put some thoughts down in a post.
Full disclosure first – so far I just don’t like the book. I don’t hate it, but I’m not loving it. It’s just leaving me cold. An odd experience for me, it’s pretty rare that I’m not at all moved. As I really began to realize that I was not making any connection to it an idea began to gel for me. I found myself thinking a great deal about a book that addresses some similar themes and that moved me greatly – Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Then over the past week the fates, serendipity, coincidence, whatever you want to call it, really pushed me in the direction of looking at these two works together.
I ordered a new copy of Blood Meridian; the lovely Modern Library edition with a wonderful introduction by Harold Bloom. I read the intro Monday night and a couple of pages into the text. The next day I checked in with The Morning News Tournament of Books to see which book was advancing in that day’s match up. What do I find there? The commentary includes an hysterically funny bit of back & forth about Nicholas Sparks and his dissing of Cormac McCarthy, specifically Blood Meridian, in a recent interview! I read the interview referenced and found it horrific in its own right. But the commentary also reminded me that both McCarthy and Bolano have been in the TOB in recent years – 2666 in last year’s Tournament; The Savage Detectives in 2008; The Road in 2007 (and the champion). So I’ve been dipping into the matches and commentary on 2666 over there as well.
All of which is my very convoluted way of saying it’s obvious to me I need to keep exploring these two books. I’m putting my first thoughts together and I’m looking forward to bringing them to you and hearing your comments. Meanwhile, back to the litany of death!
Glad to hear from you, Joan. Will look forward to your thoughts when you next post.
Joan: I’m fascinated by your comparison of Bolaño to Cormac McCarthy, because while I consider myself a Bolaño fan (I’ve read 4 of his novels counting 2666), I have decidedly mixed feelings about McCarthy. Steve also made the comparison somewhere, and I for one would love to hear you compare and contrast the two writers, though I suspect we might disagree about who’s the better writer. Admittedly I’ve only read one McCarthy novel, The Road (here’s my rather tepid review: http://bit.ly/94gQRp ), but I can’t imagine that I’d like his others much better. His style, in The Road at least, drives me crazy, and I’m not exactly sure why. It’s not necessarily because it’s overwrought (I like excess) or because it resides in some kind of unsatisfactory middle ground between poetry and prose (this is true of more than a few passages in 2666 as well, and those go down pretty easy). It just struck me as showy and gratuitous, though a friend’s description of Blood Meridian makes me think I might find it more to my liking. The funny thing is, I think readers find both writers difficult as much for their stylistic choices as for the grimness of their subject matter, though perhaps for opposite reasons. So here’s one vote for more about the Bolaño-McCarthy connection, or disconnection.