Bolaño on other evenings

LEOEGetting caught up on reading this week. According to Goodreads’ book counter, I’m six books behind in my goal of 100 books for the year. Gulp. (Go here if you want to see what I’ve read so far.) But I’ve finished the semester’s grading, so …

In my search for WHAT TO READ, I stumbled upon Roberto Bolaño’s short story collection: Last Evenings on Earth. (Such a good title, eh? I got the book from a fellow MFAer two years ago, stuffed it in my bookshelf, and let it grow a healthy layer of dust until now.)

What I like about the book? Much. Each story hooks you with a nose ring, leads you around for a while, and then mashes your face into the ending/nonending. HA, you thought the story would do THIS?!?

The experience is much more pleasing than it sounds.

Also: It’s interesting to see a writer’s obsessions developing. Many of the same ideas in these short stories are carried through to his magnum opus 2666: murders, movies, Santa Teresa, Sonora, unhappy writers, etc., etc.

But what I really like about the book right now? The down-on-your-luck artists/characters. They live with mothers and sisters, they sell drugs, they work odd jobs, they live poorly. As a fellow inhabitant of not-enough-funds, the characters are satisfying an itch to see other writers/artists NOT making it.

Schadenfreude, you are an unsightly beast.

(The artist shrugs. Takes another careful sip of her coffee—there isn’t much left in the pot.)

Of course Bolaño was incredibly successful. So I wonder if these explorations of less than successful artists really were explorations of his own fears of mediocrity and failure. I wouldn’t be surprised.

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