EVENT: Is It Too Soon to Be Callously Objective about Roberto Bolaño?


His paperback novellas from New Directions were strange and exciting. We liked By Night in Chile and Distant Star. We liked him showing up in the fiction section of The New Yorker, where his stories felt baggy and loose and ready to punch you in the face. We were bursting with anticipation for The Savage Detectives, we read it all at once, thinking Roberto Bolaño must be the hottest Latin American export since Selena. And then every poser in Brooklyn decided to lay down $30.00 for 2666, the reviews were ubiquitous and nearly orgasmic, and we shook our heads and said, “Meh. Nice endpapers.”

Did anyone else notice that when The Savage Detectives came out, FSG described it as Bolaño’s true masterpiece, compared to his messier, flawed, unfinished novel 2666 that they would be publishing later? They said it was really important that everyone go out and purchase The Savage Detectives right now, since it was the apex of his work. And later, when they published 2666, they described it as Bolaño’s true masterpiece, so much more ambitious and layered The Savage Detectives. They said it was really important that everyone go out and purchase 2666 right now. That was devious. Another point for the publicity team at FSG.

Well, if you want to hear some people talk about how much they love Roberto Bolaño, go to McNally Jackson on Thursday night

By the way, Jonathan Lethem, what the fuck? Are you just attaching yourself to any hot-shit literary product that comes along these days? Do you think you’re curating a museum of cool? Did you even shake hands with Roberto Bolaño? Get away from our Latin American literature. You’re getting as bad as Quentin Tarantino Presents.



Filed under Hooray Fiction!

6 Responses to EVENT: Is It Too Soon to Be Callously Objective about Roberto Bolaño?

  1. dannybayridge

    maybe you can stop patting yourself on the back for reading Bolaño way before everyone else in Brooklyn.

    maybe the “posers” were merely responding to the intense media hype that you mentioned, perpetrated jointly by snobby literary assholes and publishing assholes who wanted to make a fat buck off the last thing with his signature on it.

  2. fictionadvocate

    Danny Bayridge, instead of responding to your actual comment, or to the fact that your online handle makes it sound like you were the sixth member of NKOTB, I’m going to draw your attention to the photo at the top of this post. Bolano is the new Guevara. I’m sure you can picture Bolano, thin as a reed, his dark curls tousled, lifting a frail cigarette to his lips. He’s iconic now. He’s a measure of cool. Soon we’ll see his poster in college dorms. Bolano should fly off the shelves, but not because of his image.

    Your suggestion that I’m complicit in bringing about this state of affairs is impossible to prove, at best. But I can do my best to reverse the trend.

    I’ll put this in terms you can understand. Step by step, we’re reaching a point where Bolano still has the right stuff, but genuine appreciation of his work is hangin tough.

  3. fictionadvocate

    P.S. When Colson Whitehead lands on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, they pick a black guy to review him, and the review is all about being black. But when Roberto Bolano lands on the cover of the NYTBR, they pick Jonathan Lethem, whose primary qualification is that everyone in Brooklyn has read his novel about gentrification and comic book superheroes. What’s the deal, Sam Tenehaus?

  4. Andy Lin

    Well I finally got around to picking up The Savage Detectives. Am a hundred pages in, but I think it’s great.

  5. fictionadvocate


  6. Carrie M

    That’s exactly the point at which I gave it up as boring and ridonculous.

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