Author Archives: Mike

Who’s Afraid of Roberto Bolaño?

Since you can’t get tickets to “Hamilton,” perhaps you would be interested in another unexpected adaptation of an incredibly long but popular book: Roberto Bolaño’s 2666.  The five-and-a-half hour stage performance opened yesterday at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. The New York Times says that it “wins full marks for ambition, but falls short as a work of dramatic art.” The Chicago Tribune calls it “a long, complicated night of theater.”

2666 stage

Watch an excerpt from the play on the New York Times site.

The fact that these are not ringing endorsements should not detract from the crazy fact that this thing exists at all.

The novel that provides the source material, often called Bolaño’s magnum opus (including in the Times review), is not a prime candidate for adaptation. It’s long, for one, clocking in at more than 900 pages. It’s also weird as hell. There is lots of mystery and far too much murder, but there is no clear narrative arc or what you might call a real “ending” — though there is speculation that recently discovered writings include another chapter to add to what has already been published.

Even with three intermissions, sitting through the 2666 adaptation seems like it would be a tough slog. That’s not always a bad thing with great art, and if anyone out there is willing to do it, we’d be happy to hear your thoughts.

For me, the whole concept — an ambitious and possibly insane attempt to adapt the violent, mystical, cryptic masterpiece of a dead author — seems like it would be more interesting as a novel itself.

Michael Moats

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Where There’s Smoke…

City on Fire

FA review tag

It’s around page 850 of Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire when the action really gets going.

Plenty happens in the preceding pages, sure, but it is only toward the very end that the various narrative threads finally begin to twist and knot: It’s past 2:00 a.m. on the night of the New York City blackout of 1977. Detective Larry Pulaski, one of at least nine major characters who have carried the story so far, has followed a handful of dead-end leads surrounding a New Year’s Eve shooting to this moment — a desperate race to prevent something (no spoilers) that is part of “a scenario so screwy it wouldn’t pass muster at a movie house.”  Continue reading

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The Day After MLK Day

MLK DAY 2016 Google

Yesterday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2016. People stayed home from work. The markets were closed. Some heeded the call to serve. There was a cool Google doodle and #MLKDay was trending on Twitter.

I remember in the early years of the Obama administration, when MLK Day often felt like a celebration. We were able to feel, for once, entitled to a little pride in our progress. Not just because of Obama, but because he brought in the most diverse cabinet and staff in the nation’s history. Because of the generation of kids whose first image of The President of the United States of America would be a black man. Because we could reasonably believe that our nation was entering the healing stage of a very bad, very long affliction.

The years since have felt like going into remission.  Continue reading

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Did You Hear? Hamilton

New music! Sometimes old music. Music that we love!

Driverless cars. Wearable tech. Virtual reality that does not actually suck. We live in an age of wonders. And yet, the greatest innovation of recent years may be this: a hip-hop Broadway smash based on an 800-page historical biography about one of America’s most misunderstood and divisive founders.

It’s likely that you at least have some awareness of “Hamilton.” And if you have a few hundreds bucks to spare you may even have seen it. There has been a lot of buzz. But like all truly great innovations, “Hamilton” is not just a novelty. Have you heard these songs?

In our review of Chernow’s books on Hamilton and George Washington, we proposed that Hamilton was the Kanye to Washington’s Jay Z. Lin-Manuel Miranda, the writer and composer of “Hamilton,” has taken it to the next level.


Here are a few other gems you should check out:

Michael Moats

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The 10 Best Things to Read Instead of Mein Kampf


I know we all want people buying more books, but this can’t be good:

Only three days after Adolf Hitler’s notorious autobiography Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) was re-released in Germany, following its entry into the public domain after a 70-year ban, booksellers and Amazon have already sold out of their copies.

Some sold out within hours.

The new edition, which runs about 2,000 pages, was developed by a “team of scholars and historians” who added about 3,500 annotations — most of which we assume were comments like “Fuck this guy” and “SRSLY???”

It seems reasonable that the German people would have a lot of curiosity about the book, which played a major role in history and has been verboten since 1945. But here at Fiction Advocate we say, screw curiosity. If you are going to rush out to buy a book, here are some you should absolutely choose over Mein KampfContinue reading


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Floating in a Most’a Peculiar Way

Bowie Read

“I think about a world to come / Where the books were found by the golden ones / Written in pain, written in awe / By a puzzled man who questioned / What we were here for…”

You’ve no doubt heard — David Bowie passed away last night after fighting cancer. He was 69 years old.

In response, Twitter has reminded us that Bowie was a serious book lover. Geoffrey Marsh, who curated an Art Gallery of Ontario exhibit on Bowie a few years back said Bowie was “‘a voracious reader’ who is reputed to read as much as ‘a book a day.'”

So we want to say goodbye the best way we know how: by talking books. Here is a list at Brain Pickings of Bowie’s 75 favorite books, and an article at Open Book Toronto that expands the list to 100. There is lots here that you would probably expect — Orwell’s 1984 and Nabokov’s Lolita — as well as a few interesting choices like The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Hitchens’ The Trial of Henry Kissinger 

These are the recommendations on books from Bowie. Any recommendations from readers out there on the best of the more than 60 books that have come out about Bowie? Here’s one we liked.

-Michael Moats


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