Just finished reading 2666 by Roberto Bolano.
I am still reeling.
Also, I need to create a “media” box here, like I had in 2002, to keep track of what I’m reading and watching and what I thought of it.
One thing I’ve noticed recently, both in the stories coming out about the New School and tonight (this morning) as I’m reading some reader reviews of 2666 online: Americans are asses about their opinions, and most Americans’ ideological worlds are shut tightly around them.
The world is full, for most Americans, of lying intellectuals and communist plots. Nobody in their right mind should believe anything that’s actually published, or anything that’s taught in college classrooms, or indeed anything outside the sensationalistic whorehouses that are cable news. The others are lying, self-serving, red-guard intellectuals, all of them. Thought is but pretense. The wise don’t think, they kill, God Bless America!
I cannot express deeply enough how much I hate America at moments like this. Not the system, specifically, but rather the culture.
Oh, and my concise review of the novel:
This is a deeply troubling work. Not terrifying, quite, nor horrifying, nor shattering. Instead, demanding. Incriminating. An accusation of the most serious kind. Chilling. Mesmerizing. Giant, as it were.
The only thing I’ve read which approximates the scope or scale of the novel is War and Peace, but War and Peace is a rotten comparison because if you haven’t actually read 2666 yet but have read Tolstoy, such a comparison will give you absolutely the wrong idea.
2666 is a haunting, creeping, threatening, silently (and ever more) dangerous whisper that gradually accumulates, begins to hang in the air, the whisper of death, of all of the deaths of modernity, foremost amongst these the deaths of society and of a particular conception of humanity and civilization. It is not a eulogy for the modern project, but rather the warning of an impending reckoning, a cold, calculated demand for payment, the calm before a dreadful storm that (thankfully) doesn’t actually arrive in the novel’s pages, but that continues to color the silence that follows, the certainty of its ultimate arrival at some unknown future date all too clear.
It is an implicit, intuitive, wild summary of existential dread, of the uniquely modern aggregation of history atop which we live, of holocausts and nuclear politics and terrorism and slavery and capitalism and totalitarianism and unrestrained virtuality and uncontrollable sexuality and the tyranny, the utter, utter tyranny of individual and collective human agency, which has proven to be restrainable neither with freedom nor with unfreedom, neither with technology nor through romanticized constructions of the “natural.”
It is perhaps the most incriminating thing I’ve ever read, a pronouncement about the human condition in the age of exponential population growth, encroaching climate change, the unchallenged dominance of capital and the banalization of violence. As a sociologist, I found it to be endlessly illuminating and diverting. As a fan of fiction, I found it to be innovative and surprising. As a professional writer, I found it to be the most willfully “incorrect” body of writing that I ever been unable to put down.