Fatigue, Mirrors, Inside/Outside, and a Theory

It’s been quiet around here lately, huh? I’ve got a bunch of things going on and, like many whose posts and comments I’ve read, have grown weary of the part about the crimes, so it’s been hard to get motivated to post. Even tonight, I don’t have it in me to write something obsessive or even particularly coherent. But I did want to make a couple of quick notes.

Bolaño is clearly doing something with the congresswoman and Norton. Both women wind up staying in a hotel room in Santa Teresa with one mirror by the door and another on the wall at the other end of the room. It seems likely (since this was a distinguishing characteristic of the room for Norton) that it’s the same room. And both — Norton in a dream — spend time trying to see themselves reflected in the two mirrors. Both are women who’ve had what vanilla folk like myself consider fairly racy sexcapades, and it seems reasonable (if not entirely charitable to Norton) to suggest that they’ve done so at times for personal, professional gain. Norton is associated in several places with the medusa, and the congresswoman describes the consumption of porn at the narcoranchos on page 628 in terms that bring medusa to mind. Norton furiously takes notes in her dream as the congresswoman establishes a detailed dossier on her missing friend.

It is Kessler who speaks, way back on page 267, about people living outside of society and how they’re perceived as expendable. He speaks of words used to avoid rather than to reveal, and he says that the crimes have different signatures and that everybody in Santa Teresa is outside of society. Kessler too is an outsider, of course, as is made all the more apparent by the pomp that surrounds his visit (the conversation described earlier in the book seems to be a follow-up visit a few years after the visit we’re told of late in the book). In my last post of any substance, I noted a number of instances of contrast between being inside and being outside. On page 609, the congresswoman bangs on the topic some more:

You think that from the inside you might change some things for the better. First you work from the outside, then you think that if you were inside the real possibiliteis for change would be greater. You think that inside, at least, you’ll have more freedom to act. Not true. There are things that can’t be changed from outside or inside. But here comes the funniest part. The really unbelievable part of the story (the sad story of Mexico or Latin America, it makes no difference). The part you can’t believe. When you make mistakes from inside, the mistakes stop mattering. Mistakes stop being mistakes. Making a mistake, butting your head against he wall, becomes a political virtue, a political tactic, gives you political presence, gets you media attention.

Here at the end of this part of the book, we have the congresswoman, who has become the ultimate insider, tracking one murder while Kessler, the ultimate gringo outsider, is brought in to provide support for the investigation. It’s an interesting contrast, if not one I can really do justice to.

And finally, a theory. It’s not at all clear to me how tidy the end of the section is supposed to be. The parts about Kelly Parker are drawn out and seem important by virtue of word count, but they also seem sort of patched in and just about random. Why all this detail about one case all of a sudden (and why the one about a woman who changed her name to a very American-sounding name?)? Is it gesturing toward a source for a lot of the crimes? I can’t help wondering if the implication isn’t that a lot of the women being found dead are women Kelly has hired as prostitutes for her parties, and that there really is a big central case to blow wide open if only the police would do some police-work. If so, I fear that it’s obvious and I’m coming across as a moron for proposing it as some ground-breaking theory.

Anyway, next week: Archimboldi.

5 thoughts on “Fatigue, Mirrors, Inside/Outside, and a Theory

  1. Dan April 6, 2010 / 10:08 pm

    Good post, and helpful for what I’ve been thinking about too. I noticed the mirror parallel myself (maybe it is hard to miss) and tried to address a few elements over at my blog, although it is a lot of text for I’m not sure how much insight (and maybe too positive, given what you say). But you’ve caught a few Norton/Plata connections I had missed.

    Maybe it is too sentimental a reading, but the use of Plata’s narration to end (but for one more death) the fourth part and her last-moment appeal to Sergio seems like something of an invitation to us too–maybe not to start investigating the crimes ourselves but to start caring about them, insist they matter. Obviously the whole section has been trying to hammer that into us, but this might be a “everything and the kitchen sink” moment for Bolaño: here’s a highly invested appeal on behalf of a friend in the first person, a request for help. You had better not say no.

  2. Jeff Anderson April 7, 2010 / 4:30 pm

    I’ve got to say, I think the book’s pinning (most of) it all on a serial killer—rather than the set of cultural conditions that are so amply illustrated—would be even more disappointing. The whole structure and methods of the book make me think that an unlikely tidiness, if you see what I mean.

    And oh, Dan, I love the urgent goodness in your idea here; it makes me want to think better of the book. It doesn’t actually convince me, but I’d be pleased if it did.

  3. Matt Evans April 11, 2010 / 5:58 pm

    Hi Daryl. I’ve looked all over for your email address and can’t find it. I’m writing, basically, in response to a comment you made (on Matthew Baldwin’s Defective Yeti) about reading Moby Dick for this year’s Infinite Summer.

    Anyway, I’m writing to say that I’d be down for a Moby Dick/Infinite Summer experience. Summer Dick. Get yer Dick on. Whatever you want to call it, I’m there. I’ve wanted to read the book for a while now.

  4. Daryl L. L. Houston April 11, 2010 / 8:04 pm

    Matt, I’m working on the schedule and some guest bloggers for that read now. I haven’t published this elsewhere yet, but the first milestone is set (right now) to be May 24. (I guess it’s Infinite Spring?) Look for more info at this blog in the next couple of weeks. I had thought of Infinite Dick, but maybe Get Yer Dick On is better. 🙂

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