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Stephen Mejias
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The Savage Detectives

By Roberto Bolano. Has anyone read it? I'm just 100 or so pages in, but it strikes me as a very important novel. I'm loving it. I sit on the train on my way to and from work, reading it, laughing out loud, seeming crazy to the pretty blond girl across the way, wanting to share the words with her:


Quote:

As we were starting to eat, we were joined by a guy called Luscious Skin, twenty-three, rooftop neighbor, who was introduced as a visceral realist poet. A little before I left, I asked him again what his name was and he said Luscious Skin so naturally and confidently (much more naturally and confidently than I would've said Juan Garcia Madero) that for a minute I actually believed that somewhere amid the back alleys and swamps of our Mexican Republic there was actually a family named Skin.

This is not really the part that I want to share with her. That part is better, but far too naughty to share here.

It's about identity, I suppose, and life and lust and politics, truth and beauty, with touches of Hemingway, Bukowski (but better), Knut Hamsun, and others, I'm sure.

Anyway, I got into The Savage Detectives because Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth, the greatest band of all time) listed it on his "Best of" list for 2008. Sometimes I find myself imagining Thurston reading it, laughing and smiling like me.

From what I've read, Bolano lived a hard, passionate, rambling life and died in 2003, at the age of 50. The Savage Detectives was originally published in 1998, but took nearly a decade before it was translated into English. Before Bolano died, he raced to finish 2666, a massive, 900-page masterpiece (they say), which I can't wait to get my hands on.

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:
From what I've read, Bolano lived a hard, passionate, rambling life and died in 2003, at the age of 50.

From the intro by Natasha Wimmer:

"He was desperately poor, often sick; for a time he was addicted to heroin. Over the years he lost most of his teeth, leaving them behind

smejias
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Re: The Savage Detectives


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Odd that it's so odd to laugh out loud on the train...On the plus side, people seem to give you more space.

No one wants to sit beside me. I don't get it. I want to be, like, "Come here, come here! Look, at this! Read this book with me!"

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Re: The Savage Detectives

I don't get it either but we're not supposed to show any emotion on trains. It's too invasive and laughter is downright confrontational ;-)

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Re: The Savage Detectives

Try 2666 next. It's "unfinished" but even as is, it's got a moebius strip quality to its construction, with the end seemingly dovetailing into the beginning. (They found 2 more volumes of 2666, btw...) The 3rd volume of the book is tough to read: 300 or so pages of endless accounts of torture/rape/murder of young girls in Santa Teresa.... but the 1st volume of the book is an aesthetically advanced version of Jules et Jim, IMO. Beautiful.

Personally, I love his shorter work better. His short stories are bad-ass, from the collection "Last Evening on Earth." And "Distant Star" is amazing, too, with the contemplation of art & terror all at once.

The thing about all of his books, though, is that they're all interconnected, and meant to be read as one gigantic epic. You'll see recurring characters, i.e. Arturo Belano, etc. in several different works, and there are patches from smaller works like "Amulet" expanded in longer works like Savage Detectives, etc. (Belano, for example, is also in Distant Star, as well as in Savage Detectives, and according to Bolano's notes, is the narrator in 2666)

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Re: The Savage Detectives

Most excellent. Thanks, self. (I was hoping you'd chime in.) I'm also interested in reading Bolano's poems. I read somewhere that he thought of himself first as a poet. When asked why, he responded, "The poems make me blush less," or something like that.

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Re: The Savage Detectives

His poems are surprising & incongruent in a good way. He was better suited to write prose, IMO, at least from some of the verse I've read from various mags... but he was passionate about poetry, no doubt. He started as a poet, and only started writing fiction when he got married and had kids, I think... fiction is a more pragmatic craft than poetry, after all, in terms of earning your keep... But part of the fun of reading Bolano is his worshipping of obscure poets, esp. in his smaller novels... in a way, ALL of his work is actually about literature as a whole, if you read all his works in concert. His novella, Nazi Literature in the Americas, is actually a catalogue of dreamt-up writers and their works...

So happy you're digging Bolano! When I worked as a Buyer at an indie book store, I kept pushing By Night in Chile, Bolano's 1st translated work, to customers... I think this was back in 2002 or something... at the time, I had no idea that there would be this Bolano craze. Last week, I even saw the paperback copies of Savage Detectives at Costco. Costco!

He made it.

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:
Costco!


Costco?! Crazy. Soccer moms are gonna have a lot of fun with Bolano.

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Re: The Savage Detectives

Soccer moms are thinking people too. "They" may be a different age or a different geographical location than someone else but like any group, they aren't a group, people are individuals to be valued that way. Same reason that "urban Hispanics" or "Manhattan media elites" or "Generation Y" or whatever are poor and needless descriptors of you.
Sorry to rant for a second there and nothing personal Stephen, I'm a fan and like your stuff very much. It's just one of my triggers. I don't like generalizations about ethnic groups or otherwise, and comments about "boomers" or "Nascar dads" or whatever are lousy media and marketing creations that have slipped into common usage - unfortunately. It gets my goat.

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Re: The Savage Detectives


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Soccer moms are thinking people too.

I'm sorry, Bill. I was just kidding. I agree with you.

BillB
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Re: The Savage Detectives

Thanks.

linden518
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Re: The Savage Detectives

Besides, Stephen, soccer moms are SO 2004 in terms of demographics... let's change to "cougars" if we are going to lump people together.

(Kidding, BillB! )

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Re: The Savage Detectives

I kinda like "cougars", tho...

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:
I kinda like "cougars", tho...


LOL

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Re: The Savage Detectives

Yes. Honestly, I hesitated when typing "soccer moms," searching for a better word or phrase. I don't know why "cougars" didn't occur to me. In any case, "cougars" is what I meant to say.

Cougars will have a great time with Bolano. Thank you.

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Re: The Savage Detectives

OK, Savage Detectives is on deck.

I had just started World War Z, so it will be a week or two.

Oy, I just finished the

worst

book

ever.

The fourth Odd Thomas book, Odd Hours. I used the first three as airplane reading, and I really don't have words for how lousy this last one was.

I'm looking forward to Savage Detectives. Books by authors who are drug addicts tend toward the analog side of the analog/digital equation. I made sure to buy it in paper, none of the Ken Doll stuff Amazon is pimping.

In September, the third book of The Traveler and The Dark River 'trilogy' arrives.

More pap, but I have a soft spot for dystopic pap.

I can't say more, if I type one more line, the vast machine will be able to locate my compu...

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Re: The Savage Detectives

Last time I was at a used book store, Michael Crichton was in the news for having just died, so I picked up one of his, "Airframe". God is that a piece of crap. I had vague memories of his book Jurassic Park being a good read. Now I'm wondering about my memory. Airframe is just a transparent ploy for being the basis of a screenplay - everything in it is written to be in a big dumb movie. Horrible. I would toss it away after every chapter and then pick it up later with morbid fascination. Glad that one's over.

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Re: The Savage Detectives

OK, Savage Detectives is up.

I enjoyed "World war Z," it is the Spoon River Anthology of zombie fiction.

A veritable Dubliners of the brain eating set.

Best zombie fiction I've ever read.

Anybody have any favorite vampire books?

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:
OK, Savage Detectives is up.


Can't wait to hear what you think of it, Buddha.


Quote:
Anybody have any favorite vampire books?


I was once in love with a girl who had a thing for Laurell K. Hamilton's series of vampire novels, so I read them -- all of them -- as a means of getting closer to the girl. Ha! I was young. The books sucked, heh.

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Re: The Savage Detectives

For music-loving fiction readers, try this one by Arthur Philips:

http://www.amazon.com/Song-You-Novel-Art...7212&sr=8-1

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Re: The Savage Detectives


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Best zombie fiction I've ever read.

Anybody have any favorite vampire books?

Tim Powers:

web page

This guy's writing is flat out smart, scary, clever, funny and steeped in the classics of every known genre and epoch. Just read the reviews. Not for the casual reader, tho'.

sd, here's someone brainy enough to keep up with your knowledge base- a perfect complement.

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:

Quote:
Odd that it's so odd to laugh out loud on the train...On the plus side, people seem to give you more space.

No one wants to sit beside me. I don't get it. I want to be, like, "Come here, come here! Look, at this! Read this book with me!"

I do it anyway. I personally don't give a damn for their 'space'.

It is the heart and soul of the problem in the cities. The inability to break through the ice of the false wall between you and the next person. We all want some privacy from the invasive commercialism. Step three: realize the origin of the issue. (Step one is: realizing the issue exists, step two is: realizing the shape of the issue)

Tear down all the signs, remove all the adverts, burn your televisions to the ground. If you want news and opinion, read a paper, bring the news and thoughts to you, don't take them as forced on you, as it is foolishly accepted/tolerated in this modern world. No place to rest your eyes or mind without suffering bombardment.

You may have your space on a subway or bus when you are 'isolated' like that but it is a purely negative space.

I for one don't tolerate it and communicate with the person next to me all the time.

On the other hand I won't live in cities. Not a chance. That bizarre isolationism is inherently socially and culturally sick, in my mind.

And you know what? I like Montreal. Why? Out of all the cities I've been in, Montreal has the least of that.

In the big City, you try to psychologically recreate the size limitations of the village in your life. Connectivity with the people in the office, or your immediate neighbors - but no more! The rest of the people, the masses..they don't exist. The constant bombardment is part of the issue of getting such isolation off your shoulders. Essentially, it becomes an episode of self created compartmentalization and limitation to maintain some control of the sensory load. The more important point, is that it recreates the basic 'us vs. them' psychological isolationism, the ability to look at people as a separate 'group of cattle'. This is reinforced on an second-to-second basis, every day of your life. NOT good. Part of the issue created when being born rich - but that's another story altogether. How about being in Beijing, seeing someone be run over by a car on a street corner..and no one even caring or stopping?

Remove the advertising and similar bombarding garbage, and the capacity to handle the individual stranger in the crowd - increases dramatically. IMO.

The human mind does have it's limitations.

The big cities also limit the capacity to think in depth. Every individual whom I have ever met who swore up and down that they'd never leave 'the downtown core' and has ended up in the woods or in a house way out of the core of the city, away from other houses, eventually has come to the conclusion that 'it is the best thing that has ever happened to me'. Not a single person who does so, disagrees with that assessment.

In the final analysis, it can be seen that large cities are bad for your mental health.

I've sat in meeting where we poured over the plans or diagrams for a well known city's subways, roads, airport, etc. the specific loading platforms, the hallways the connecting passages..all of it.

In those meetings we had to brainstorm of ways to screw the sensory limits of people over..in order to get them to 'eat' the given advertising. To increase the individual 'hit' level to as high a point as possible. (raw #'s of views by the passing cattle is the key point they look for in the revenue department) Sadly, I'm good at finding these ways - I always have been. The key point was new ways, innovative ways, that the psychology of the individual would not suspect. It was disgusting. I never did it again. These things can (and do) serve politically as well, indoctrination.... therein lies their danger. I was helping create some promotional version of '1984' and I wanted no part of it.

As for the whole 'country' thing, you need to be out there, separated from the rush of the city in a uninterrupted fashion for multiple weather cycles (years) before the proper mental mindset settles in. Like a neurotic dog that's been beaten and flinches every time someone takes out a comb to comb their hair -you need time to stabilize and alter your mindset. In the same way that it takes a country boy a while to adjust to the city.

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:
OK, Savage Detectives is up.

I enjoyed "World war Z," it is the Spoon River Anthology of zombie fiction.

A veritable Dubliners of the brain eating set.

Best zombie fiction I've ever read.

Anybody have any favorite vampire books?

F. Paul Wilson.

'The Keep' Series. Not quite vampire but interesting nonetheless.

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:

Quote:

Best zombie fiction I've ever read.

Anybody have any favorite vampire books?

Tim Powers:

web page

This guy's writing is flat out smart, scary, clever, funny and steeped in the classics of every known genre and epoch. Just read the reviews. Not for the casual reader, tho'.

sd, here's someone brainy enough to keep up with your knowledge base- a perfect complement.

I bought 'Expiration Date' as it seemed like it was a 'good one'. I started it but never went any further. I gave up reading about a decade ago, now; before that I was up to about 4,000 titles under my belt.

Buddha
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Re: The Savage Detectives

I'm about 200 pages in now. So far, I think it's us who are the detectives.

Not a criticism, this book makes you work for your kicks.

Very Kerouac.

I think I knew Maria Font back in the day. She wrote bad poetry in a crazy kind of urgency.

Does Juan ever resurface?

smejias
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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:
Not a criticism, this book makes you work for your kicks.


I've slowed way down. I'm now at 379 and I sometimes feel as if the book is killing me. But I'm N2Deep. I agree: The second part of the book makes you work; it's not nearly as much simple fun as the first part.

There's a point in the book -- I can't remember where -- when one of the characters is discussing different types of literature. Oh, yes -- it's Joaquin Font and it happens at just about the point in the book where you are now, Buddha -- he says "There are books for when you're bored. There are books for when you're calm. There are books for when you're desperate...."

A lot of the second part of the novel seems to be the writing for the desperate; it's very slowly telling the story of deep human sadness and desperation. Post-coital sadness and desperation. Post-coital tristesse.


Quote:
Does Juan ever resurface?


I hope so.

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Re: The Savage Detectives

Page 597 we get back to the initial first person narrative from Juan.

I tell ya, man, parts of this damn book have been like trying to read Old Testament lineages as recreation.

I admit to hitting a page or two when the author deems it time to list his knowledge of names of poets and I go kind of 'dial tone' for several paragraphs.

smejias
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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:
I admit to hitting a page or two when the author deems it time to list his knowledge of names of poets and I go kind of 'dial tone' for several paragraphs.

I'm with you on that.

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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:

Quote:
I admit to hitting a page or two when the author deems it time to list his knowledge of names of poets and I go kind of 'dial tone' for several paragraphs.

I'm with you on that.


Being a lit geek, I'm a bit ga-ga for such lists of obscure poets. What a weird world that such forgotten names are so venerated and worshipped... kind of creates an alternate universe for me. Also, it's fun trying to figure out which names are real and which are made up.

Buddha
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Re: The Savage Detectives


Quote:

Quote:

Quote:
I admit to hitting a page or two when the author deems it time to list his knowledge of names of poets and I go kind of 'dial tone' for several paragraphs.

I'm with you on that.


Being a lit geek, I'm a bit ga-ga for such lists of obscure poets. What a weird world that such forgotten names are so venerated and worshipped... kind of creates an alternate universe for me. Also, it's fun trying to figure out which names are real and which are made up.

I was going to Google some of the poetry terms from the conversations.

Were those all real?

I picture a conversation with the author as though he were The Journalist from "Apocalypse Now!"

That Bolano guy seems like he would have been great to go out with.

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