Sunday, November 28, 2010

A list of 2010 Notable books by the NY Times

I arrived on the internets this morning and my RSS feed reader suggested this article to me: the "100 Notable Books of 2010" at the New York Times site (I wish these things showed a preview of the links like Facebook does).

Quite a few of these look awesome and just reading the list in itself stirs a literary excitement for venturing into many of these intellectually stimulating, cultural and historically commentating novels.

I kind of miss the old age of high ideas, though. The novels of a time and place far, far away with extreme governments, assassins from secret societies, alternate histories, post-apocalypses and the rise of the outcasts, all faithfully and rigorously partnered with a sense of realism. Granted, most of my favorite authors (Palahniuk, Bolano) fit the catagory of the ones in the list, but they do it with a poetic, cynical and darkly humorous voice completely devoid of prudence, which I don't always see too much of while perusing the bookshelves. It could also be that plenty of these things are out there and my view lacks a proper grasp. If so, then please point me in the right direction.

I've also recently come across a few novels about families and people who've thrown away the desire to (Liberally) better the world or make a difference and are now struggling with their left over "disillusions". Voice of the times, maybe? Hmph, there's something to be said about that.........

It quite sucks that I have a severe lack of funds, but soon enough, the old expression of Desiderius Erasmus will apply:
Some of these that interest me:
"Something Red" by Jennifer Gilmore
"The Surrendered" by Chang-rae Lee
"Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous With American History" by Yunte Huang

But the novels "Ilustrado" by Miguel Syjuco and "The Nearest Exit" by Olen Steinhauer are looking likely to appear on this blog sooner than most of the others.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

White Butterfly

So, I believe I was perusing through different crime-noir authors on Wikipedia because I wanted to buy a few novels and get a sense of the genre for my own attempt at writing. I don’t remember if I first (inevitably) came upon Raymond Chandler, which led me, through some subtle mentioning or other, into Walter Mosley, or if I was randomly reading about the film adaptation of “Devil in a Blue Dress”, which led me to read about the original book and the author. Either way, the title of this book caught my eye and, even though I suspected certain generic racism-themed views that I loathe would come up, as well as the plot not really being that attention-grabbing, I bought it anyway just to expose myself to Mosley’s work. And to also get to know more quality black literature, which is in contrast with deplorable tripe such as this, and this. Ultimately, I will not deny that Mosley is a good writer, painting the scenery and culture of the time period in which this takes place with good detail and channeling the matter-of-fact, deducing voice of the noir detective well. But, since what I said in the third sentence has not only come to fruition in the writing but was peppered incessantly and spread wide amongst the narrative itself, for personal reasons I certainly shall not be purchasing another of Mosley’s books again.

Usually, in this paragraph I’d write my own summary of what the book is about, but I finished it in August and all the details I would’ve liked to include that the back of the book leaves out has left me. So, I shall just give you what’s written there.
“The police don’t show up on Easy Rawlins’s doorstep until the third girl dies. It’s Los Angeles, 1956, and it takes more than one murdered black girl before the cops get interested. Now they need Easy. As he says: “I was worth a precinct full of detectives when the cops needed the word in the ghetto.” But Easy turns them down. He’s married now, a father – and his detective days are over. Then a white college coed dies the same brutal death, and the cops put the heat on Easy: If he doesn’t help, his best friend is headed for jail. So Easy’s back, walking the midnight streets of Watts and the darker, twisted avenues of a cunning killer’s mind…”
As a quick note, I didn’t get the journey into the “twisted avenues of a cunning killer’s mind” angle at any point in the story. The novel was cultural, somewhat historical, and definitely racial, but not very psychological. But speaking of racial: as I’ve said above, there is undeniably good quality writing. Mosley gives a myriad of succinct descriptions of life in the underworld elements of L.A., ranging from territorial drug-dealers who populate the dance clubs to older jazz club owners who also pimp out their waitresses. The variety of characters are unique and interesting…for the most part. The collective of them reflects the depth of impact and change from historical, political and industrial events.

The thing is, I keep coming across sentences like this:
One describing the light-skinned LAPD cop Naylor Quinton:
“Is this your baby?” he asked. Quinten was from back east, he spoke like an educated white Northerner.”
This, talking about Rawlins reading a Plato text:
“I wondered at how it would be to be a white man; a man who felt that he belonged.”
Rawlins on a black woman’s hair:
“She smiled with perfect little pearls along her pink gums. Mrs. Keaton was small and wiry. She had the same color hair as Gabby Lee [his wife’s friend]. But Mrs. Keaton’s color came out of a bottle, whereas Gabby’s had come from the genetic war white men have waged on black women for centuries.”
And this, the cream-of-the-crop that really embodied the absurdity this story sometimes ventured into, which speaks about the above-mentioned Mrs. Keaton, a white librarian:
“All Mrs. Keaton had was the Ninety-third Street branch. She treated the people who came in there like her siblings and she treated the children like her own. If you were a regular at the library she’d bake you a cake on your birthday and save the books you loved under the front desk.
We were on a first-name basis, Stella and I, but I was unhappy that she held that job. I was unhappy because even though Stella was nice, she was still a white woman. A white woman from a place where there were only white Christians. To her Shakespeare was a god. I didn’t mind that, but what did she know about the folk tales and riddles and stories colored folks had been telling for centuries? What did she know about the language we spoke?
I always heard her correcting children’s speech. “Not ‘I is,’ she’d say. “It’s ‘I am.’”
And, of course, she was right. It’s just that little colored children listening to that proper white woman would never hear their own cadence in her words. They’d come to believe that they would have to abandon their own language and stories to become a part of her educated world. They would have to forfeit Waller for Mozart and Remus for Puck. They would enter a world where only white people spoke. And no matter how articulate Dickens and Voltaire were, those children wouldn’t have their own examples in the house of learning – the library.
I had argued with Stella about these things before. She was sensitive about them but when you told her that some man standing on a street corner telling bawdy tales was something like Chaucer she’d crinkle her nose and shake her head. She was always respectful, though. They often take the kindest white people to colonize the colored community. But as kind as Mrs. Keaton was she reflected an alien view to our people.”
I believe this book is more for white people who want to escape to a new world and Black Nationalists who want to be reminded of and empowered by certain values and viewpoints. I mean, I can sit here and be told that I’m naïve or blind for not realizing that these were the harsh realities of the 1950’s as well as the present time. I can be told that he’s absolutely right because black children are taught in schools that solely emphasize white historical figures and events and neglect important black leaders. I can be speeched about how there’s some great spiritual disconnect from the original African cultures, stories and heroes from which these children stem and that they will always be lost and unaccepted in a white world. Fine and dandy, but none of that takes away from the fact that all of the above quotes are tired, generic clichés.

I’m not going to go into my history with people who thrive on pushing this stuff on those who aren’t as strongly convicted as they are, but there are is obviously a foolish lack of individualism here that could possibly be the answer in bridging the gap between races and classes. Black history and culture can be just as objective as it is subjective, meaning that does not take actually being black to understand. Nor does it take being black to understand being ostracized or enslaved or discriminated against. Blacks have an extensive and particular history with these things, but they aren’t the only ones. And just because Stella isn’t babbling on about “the folk tales and riddles and stories colored folks had been telling for centuries” doesn’t mean that she can’t have experiences or knowledge that can be just as important or enlightening. It’s not even like it feels as though this is just the character talking and not the author, or that it makes sense for these views to be here because of the 1950’s social atmosphere. The clichés just sound like rants written independent of any of those things for the sole purpose of………I don’t even know. Perhaps Mosley is angry at the notion that people don’t realize how evil and ignorant white people are.

At any rate, I can understand the comparisons of Mosley to Raymond Chandler and other great detective fiction writers. His imagery and narrative voice are captivating. But many of the passages of the novel render the story tired and impotent before it even really starts. I won't put it in the garbage label, but I will have to pass on the rest of Mosley’s work.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Monsieur Pain

Monsieur Pain” was listed as an upcoming English translation on Roberto Bolaño’s Wikipedia page while I was reading “The Savage Detectives”. The description of it sounded like something I would’ve paid double to see Bolaño tackle, as his ability to tap into the image of all these niche political groups, trades, relationships, and general pieces of life altogether made him nothing short of legendary with a pen and paper. I perused a Barnes and Noble one day on my lunch break and found the book just sitting there on the “New Releases” shelf. That week, the only money I had was allocated to purchasing lunch and dinner, but I could not get myself to depart from the store without such an anticipated work of art in hand; anticipated even after trying to get through and consequently quitting “2666” from sheer boredom.

In 1938 Paris, the Peruvian poet César Vallejo is in the hospital, suffering from an unaccountable but definitely fatal case of the hiccups. In despair, his wife asks her friend, Madame Reynaud, to summon Monsieur Pierre Pain, a top mesmerist who has affections for Reynaud, a widow. He takes the call, but is suddenly tailed by two mysterious Spaniards, who proposition Pain to stop treating Vallejo’s condition and stay away from him entirely. The story unfolds through this dilemma into untrustworthy characters, baffling situations and mysterious disappearances (as well as appearances).

This book was a little hard to get into and not as fun as “The Savage Detectives”. The vocabulary, though not difficult at all, was a couple of levels above what I usually read from him and there are parts with extensive dialogue between characters that seem to not really have importance. But I still feel compelled to read it again. I had just finished “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr and was still on the high of a plot-based story. “Monsieur Pain”, as I had read it on Wikipedia and on the front jacket flap of the book itself, seemed like it would be in that same vein and, as I’ve said above, definitely a work of genius when handled by Bolaño. But it was the same kind of artistically-abstract, plot-less wonderings that populate his other writings. As a matter of fact, I am seriously considering picking “2666” back up and just reading the last chapter due to the fact that there’s really no narrative thread to follow in Bolaño’s books; just entering the story at any point won’t really lose the reader. Now that I know what to expect, I believe I can go back into it and read “Pain” on its own merits, which I will do in the future.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Alienist

I don’t remember when I picked this up. I was using the receipt as a bookmark the whole time and meant to write down the date so I could report it here (details are very important), but, like an idiot, threw it out when I finished the book. No matter. Caleb Carr’s examination into the fictional hunt for a serial killer at the infant stages of criminology and profiling was created with intelligent writing that made sure I did not pay attention to much else. After perusing his Wikipedia article, I get the feeling that most things Carr wrote before and after this 1992 National Bestseller is not much worth checking out, although I am interested in a take on Sherlock Holmes he penned.

It’s 1892 in the Lower East Side of New York City. A huge portion of street traffic are horse-drawn carriages, people still walk around with lanterns for lighting their houses and the Manhattan area below 14th street, Union Square (The Five Points) is a callous slum full of racist Irish thugs and drug-abusers instead of a land deeply pervaded with Chinese history, population and culture as it is today. The novel takes place through the eyes of John Moore, a crime reporter from the New York Times, and follows him as he joins a fictional group of what would be the world’s first team of profilers. The group, composed of Theodore Roosevelt, at the time a progressive police commissioner, Sara Howard, the first woman to be hired by the police department, and the Isaacson brothers, two police detectives keen in the more shunned scientific methods of catching criminals at the time, is led by Laszlo Kreisler, a famous psychologist and criminologist who is both praised and criticized in science and law enforcement circles for his views on how personal psychological history plays into the choices a person makes in the present time. Together, they interrogate a recent string of brutal and graphic killings of young boys who work in brothels as “female” prostitutes and profile the crimes’ perpetrator while the rest of New York City law enforcement turns their back on the murders.

While the language of the writing was not that colorful in its imagery or wit, the pacing moves at the perfect speed throughout the entire story, remaining anxious but moderate in the intense scenes, and calm but continual in the more dramatic scenes. The novel is, of course, a vehicle for the character of Kreizler, who Caleb Carr began to name his purported series after when he wrote another book in this universe. But to me, Kreizler didn’t really make it in the Hall of memorable fictional characters. I didn’t find much about his mannerisms or attitude that quirky or arbitrary. Nevertheless, he was very entertaining, and the book notably becomes much less interesting when he leaves it for a few pages. Sara the rebel is also of note, but the fact that Carr teases her over the romantic interest role for the main character John Moore sort of sapped the life out of her for me. But, despite these criticisms, I’d recommend this book to anyone who can read English, as it will grip you from the start and never let go.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Batman: The Long Halloween

I picked up “Batman: The Long Halloween” alongside “The Arabian Knights”, “The Idiot” by Dostoevsky and “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel by Lewis Carroll sometime in January, although I didn’t read it until this month. I’ve always preferred books that have been turned into films and like comparing the two, especially if the film was extraordinary. This graphic novel, written by Jeph Loeb, illustrated by Tim Sale and published in 1996, was the basis for “The Dark Knight”, particularly the story concerning the origin of supervillain Two-Face.

Gotham City, held in a tight grip by gangster Carmen “The Roman” Falcone and the Falcone mafia family, is suddenly alerted when a serial killer begins striking their victims on holidays and leaving behind a holiday-theme memento at the crime scene (consequentially dubbing them “The Holiday Killer” in Gotham City media), starting on Halloween. As Batman, Captain Jim Gordon (usually known as Commissioner Gordon), and District Attorney investigate the crimes and search for the serial killer, the downfall of regular mafia thugs as the city’s main villains progresses while the “freaks” or insane and unorthodox antagonists begin to rise, and Harvey Dent’s patience and sanity get put to the ultimate tests as the investigation stretches and burdens his home life and morals.

The graphic novel definitely kept my interest in reading. As the reader begins each chapter, a new super villain is introduced and investigated for the whereabouts or the howabouts of the The Holiday Killer. As a new clue is deducted or another killing takes place, the mystery was refreshed and intrigue was certainly renewed, making me want to continue the story every train or bus ride home from work (as opposed to me sometimes just listening to my iPod and not wanting to trudge through a boring part of whatever I’m reading at the time). The dramatic writing, as in the dialogue in between character and the story-telling (not the plot) itself was a little dry and uninteresting. I suppose someone would tell me that that is the nature of a comic book and has been for years, but I think Alan Moore has come in and raised the standard on the aspect.

I read online that Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale purposefully left the ending of this collected series of issues open-ended and ambiguous………which is not the feeling or thoughts that I got when I finished the book. Of course, I felt lost in a few parts and come to think of it, I’m not really sure if a certified confession of guilt or presentation of evidence is clear. At any rate, the book is definitely entertaining and will get a second reading from me in the future.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Brave New World

I bought “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley (1932) a long time ago solely based on its status as a dystopian classic, which had to have been a little more than a year and a half ago. Today, in the midst of the composition of my own dystopian novel, I’ve decided to go through the classics of that genre to get a feel of how they approached the subject and picked this one out first. I can’t deny that it was certainly a well-written novel, especially considering the fact that I disagree with it politically.

In this “anti-utopian” future that takes place a century or two after Huxley wrote it, social stability is created and conditioned at the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Center. Here, people are “decanted” (instead of reproduced in a woman after she has sex with a man), biologically cultured and multiplied through scientific applications such as Bokanovsky’s Process (where an embryo is made to bud out other eggs/embryos) and Podsnap’s Technique (where the process of the embryo growth is accelerated). With the end product of all this seeming to solely be simple “happiness”, or in reality, coming to the obligation to go back into the Central London Hatchery to work for them and pump out humans in the same way oneself has, the adventure starts when worker Bernard Marx begins to outward express his desire “to know what passion is”, much to the dismay of public manner and prudence, reflected in the character of Lenina, a promiscuous Hatchery worker (the general norm and obligated behavior of this society is promiscuity). Marx becomes tired of rote, daily life and begins actively seeking a way to shake his society up.

In a letter to George Orwell, Huxley wrote that the point of this novel was show the different, more efficient methods a violent boot-on-your-face, death-for-nothing totalitarian government would take to control their population, such as “hypnopaedia” (recordings that play in people’s ears as they sleep to hypnotize them into having beliefs), and a drug called “soma” that keeps people pacified when confronted with existential questions or crisis of reality. But, it seems to me that Huxley is suggesting that the government would switch over from a heavily right-wing approach in politics to a communist one. In the back notes of the edition I have, it’s recorded that someone named Granville Hicks of the Communist Party of USA said this novel was a product of Huxley speaking from his upper-class, educated background with no experience or understanding of the suffering of the masses.

The character who becomes a rebel of this society, John the Savage, a Shakespeare-quoting Anglo-Saxon who was raised on an Indian reservation, is brought by Bernard into London’s “civilized” society of people repeating Ford’s ideas of Community, Identity, Stability and hates it. He hates it because people are “decanted” (born) and fated to live 100% comforted lives without any kind of exposure to danger or sense of mortality and suspense. Reading this passage, I then questioned the validity of purposefully putting people through these circumstances versus just naturally letting life perform that job (which Huxley seems to think will not happen in Communism, as depicted in this novel), but in the context that the Savage presented this idea, I understood.

At any rate, I’m sure there is enough interpretive discussion of the content to fill up 15 Microsoft Word pages single-spaced, but my goal here is to direct focus on the text as a novel and piece of entertainment. The characters and the ideas the represented were interesting, and for some reason I kept picturing Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson playing the character of Helmholtz Watson from the way he is described in the text (you read it and tell me what you think. Worthy of note is the fact that popular director Ridley Scott is working on a film adaptation of this book). The novel, with its delving into the scientific process of making humans with machines on an assembly line, is at first enlightening and interesting but starts to feel like it’s going on way longer than it supposed to. Luckily, this kind of exposition is never revisited. It keeps a moderate pace: not glossing over plot aspects (of which there really isn’t any) or characters or structures of this dystopian London quickly and sloppily, but not painfully going over each and every detail of everything either. I cannot say it’s a favorite of mine, but something certainly worth picking up and checking out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Talented Mr. Ripley

I could not get myself to finish the book. I’m not going to say it didn’t live up to it’s hype, although technically, the hype was for the film and not the book. The director of the adaptation (the trailer in the link is of bad quality, but the only one I could find), Anthony Minghella, had seen something great in the text, and I felt like I was missing it or not understanding the book fully (which at one point, I really wasn’t. I was confused about what Tom Ripley had to do to get away from the police and keeping track of each story he had for each person he pretended to be). I’m sure it was a great story for its time, and I’m sure that there are plenty of people in this generation who would enjoy the novel. But it was too dramatic and dry for the impression of the “ultimate bad boy sociopath” to come across and keep me in it’s narrative grip.

It is presumably 1955 (the year the book was published) and Tom Ripley, paranoid, anti-social and main protagonist of the story, is to all naked eyes a collector for the IRS. One night, while being on the watch for policemen that may come and arrest him for fraud, he is approached by Richard Greenleaf, a wealthy industrialist. Mr. Greenleaf asks Tom, as a friend of his son Dickie, to go to Mongibello in Sicily and persuade Dickie to come back to the United States and reunite with his father. Tom reluctantly takes the mission. In Mongibello, Tom meets the charming and handsome Dickie Greenleaf and his gentle, literary acquaintance Marge. From here, the story takes a slow dive into the dark, psychotic and unexpected, and we follow Tom’s attempt to use his intelligence and cunning to make it through it all.

I like to imagine that, since this novel was written over 5 decades ago, the story and Tom Ripley himself was written to appear dark and twisted to the national (or international) audience at hand. But now, I don’t think that the story moves fast enough. There is a lot of time spent on actions and interactions that are nothing more than casual talk contrasted by Ripley’s thoughts (him trying to figure out what to say to impress Dickie, what to say to Marge to push her away, how to get more money out of Mr. Greenleaf, etc.) Interest peaked at times when the homosexual theme of the story was brought up, particularly in the part where Tom is caught trying on Dickie’s clothes. The murders that occur also pulled me back into the story, as the descriptions of how the people are killed made me cringe sharply. But ultimately, I became confused in who had what story of which personality Tom was acting out, and there was no drive to continue reading or start from the beginning to figure it out again. So, I did not finish it.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sorry, Mr. Bolaño........

But I could not finish "2666". I know, I know, people are ranting and raving about how great it is. And you know what, I wouldn't try to contradict their opinion. It is well put-together, comprehensive and very in-depth. But, throughout the chapter about the killings, the text got extremely boring. I kept saying to myself that I would just finish it, put it down and read "The Talented Mr. Ripley", and then come back and finish the chapter on the lost German author (which I was willing to bet would've been fun to read), but The Killings chapter was just repetitive and not really going anywhere. Perhaps, in the future, I will just skip it altogether and start the chapter on Benno von Archimboldi. Bolaño is still my favorite author, and I still look forward to reading "Monsieur Pain", but now, "The Talented Mr. Ripley" is the focus. And so, I will come back here with an opinion on it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Still plowing through "2666"

Crappola............way more than a month since I've last been here.

No, I'm not blogging with the rapidity previously witnessed when I first started this blog, but that does not mean I'm not fighting to get back into the old habit of doing so.

Right now, I'm reading "2666" by Roberto Bolano, which is a hefty 900 pages roundabout. Even so, I'd normally be finishing that book up right about now (assuming I'd be reading it every train trip to and from work, and at home after watching an episode of "Law and Order" or "Criminal Minds"), but I am also reading a non-fiction work and The Book of Acts. I rotate between the three every two or three days.

"2666" started out great, but the chapter with the character Fate is moving quite slow.

I'm wondering if I should start "The Caves of Steel" by Isaac Asimov next or Agatha Christie novel "Three Act Tragedy". Also on queue for reading is "Casino Royale" by Ian Fleming and "Behold the Man" by Michael Moorcock.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Update:

Man, haven't blogged here since November. That's no good. I've been reading books, but everything I've come across was too disappointing to get through fully.

The book I went to after the last entry was "Shantaram" by Gregory David Roberts. In this semi-autobiographical novel, the main character, a man with a false passport that says his name is Lindsay Ford, finds his way to India after escaping the Australian prison system, in which he was incarcerated for a string of bank robberies, which he in turn was performing in order to support his heroin habit. In Mumbai and on the run, Lin meets a cast of characters that serve to introduce him to Mumbai's underworld culture and guide him to new adventures, including gunrunning for Mujahideen, running a health care clinic for the poor, and tons of other things.

This novel looked promising from the point of me reading about it at some point long ago. I finally got around to purchasing it and started reading. I was fiercely let down at about 20-30 pages in. The adventures in themselves sparked my interest, but the writing was boring, corny and just plain stupid in a lot places. I don't have any quotes to place here from the text as in example of this; it's been a little while since I've attempted the novel and it is now sitting on my shelf collecting dust. It is written from the point of view of the narrator, and so of course, nothing will be stated with the pretense of being matter-of-fact. But when the main character loves everything he sees or gets unnecessarily poetic (if we could even call it that) tries to describe everything like it's a lovely flowing river or gentle flowers, the story gets lifeless quick. So I put that down.

The novel I next attempted was "The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth, I believe. The novel takes place in an alternate universe where, in 1940's America during the time of Hitler's invasion of Europe, the American public elects aviator and national isolationist Charles Lindbergh as the next president instead of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As an unfortunate and intricate result for the main protagonist, Philip Roth in his much younger years, the country slowly but surely begins to adapt Anti-Semitism in its culture and spirit. The novel then narrates Roth and his family's struggle with this.
It started off good and was written well as far as historical accounts and details and creating an in-depth social atmosphere of conflict and drama. But ultimately, each page turned produced less and less entertainment. So I put it down.

I next started "Death with Interruptions" by Jose Saramago. It was kind of.......well.....racist of me to have high expectations for this novel. Out of, like, the last 10 or 15 (I'm guessing, you can see for yourself on the posts before this) books I've read, most of the really good ones have been from Hispanic authors. Now thinking about it, I think it was just works by Bolaño and Coelho. But the books I've read from them had huge impacts on me and placed them in my mind as top authors. This did not happen for me with Saramago.

In "Death with Interruptions", for some reason, after the stroke of midnight starting New Year's Day in an unnamed country, people stop dying. The population is shocked that this is happening, and unique religious, political, and social takes on this astounding phenomenon begin to take shape and action. The story then shifts to Death itself as a being, falling in love with someone, and begins to unfold a narrative there.
The novel is heavily philosophical and mathematical in nature, which I did not expect but was fine with. However, it was also almost devoid of imagery and characterization, and, while it worked the brain thoroughly with its considerations of suffering eternally versus death and murder vs. mercy killing and the consideration of death being the same thing to all beings, it ultimately failed to entertain. So I put that down as well.

Now, I am in the middle of "2666", Roberto Bolaño's purported masterpiece. I am at page 70 and am already willing to declare this piece one of the best things I've ever read. Only Bolaño has the ability to have me anticipate reading huge volumes of his work, as this book's page length clocks in at 898 pages, and I look forward to devouring every printed sheet. Will get back here when I finish it. In the meanwhile, you can see what I had to say about Bolaño's other skillfully crafted work, "The Savage Detectives".