Bolaño’s Between Parentheses Reviewed at Bookslut

In a more refreshing piece, Jesse Tangen-Mills reviews Bolaño’s Between Parentheses at Bookslut. The review seemed a little different, perhaps a little Bolañoesque, and sometimes can make yet another review about the man interesting.

I avoid writing about Bolaño when I can. Not because he isn’t cool anymore or maybe he is, but because someone else will write about him and they will claim some sort of special relationship with him, and I, like a jealous boyfriend, will disagree. How could they? Why do these essays feel so personal? When I look at the copy of this book I smell black tobacco — back when everyone still smoked there — and that reminds me of waking up and drinking, and the possibility of chance insight when surrounded by drunken erudition. It reminds me of looking for answers, it reminds me of being lost and it reminds me that no one will really care.

If Bolaño hates one thing — and in fact he hates many things — it´s artifice. Bolaño´s honesty, one that almost enters the confessional — traits perhaps he snagged after years of writing poetry — and the authentically banal. For example, in “Literature + Sickness = Sickness,” a documentary about an artist he happens to catch on TV — the sort of thing that always seems to be on in Spain late at night — the sort of banal everyday thing we all do, is juxtaposed with terminal illness, an anecdote from the like of Kafka, and Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon in Dead Man Walking. Everything fits and never seems forced. Sean Penn is to Kafka is to the artist is to the gay man in a Mexican prison. In short, they are all fucked and therefore want to fuck.

Among my favorite literary tirades in the book — much like the conversation about the gayest poet in the Spanish language in The Savage Detectives — is that of the most morbid suicide, already taking into account the long tradition of homosexual suicide in Latin America (although unfortunately it continues to happen everywhere), and wryly describes the way in which each of the poets gruesomely ended their life faced with appalling repression. This is Bolaño unfettered by narrative tropes like writing a novel in first person entries, or describing thousands of murders of woman — honestly, the moments when he seems most stale. Bolaño most succeeds when he — as he recognizes Nicanor Parra doing — defies his own manifestos.