I just noticed I'm reading In Cold Blood and The Savage Detectives at the same time - such violence in my choices. What's with that? In Cold Blood continues to startle me. I'm half-way through now, reading about the early life of Perry Smith, one of the two murderers, a man with a hard shell encasing an artist's soul. They are about to be caught and I feel kind of sorry. I started reading the Capote to keep up with the Joneses, or to keep up with the O'Malley actually, but I also started it in desperation to get out of reading the Bolano. Can anyone tell me why I'm supposed to be liking The Savage Detectives? I read and enjoyed Last Evenings on Earth - the volume of short stories that served as the wider reading public's introduction to this highly praised Latin American writer, who died a few years ago. Francine Prose and John Banville are hyperbolic on the book jacket, Susan Sontag gushes. I'm 75 pages in, it's 1978 and Juan Garcia, a 17-year-young Mexican boy, stops going to law school to become a groupie with a bunch of underground literary types who publish a subversive magazine and who have decided that novels are heterosexual and poetry homosexual. Poets could be further subdivided into the categories: faggot, queer, sissy, freak, butch, fairy, nymph and philene. Evidently Whitman was a faggot, Neruda, Blake and Octavio Paz were Queer and Verlaine a freak.
Our first-person narrator is a wannabe at literature and manhood - and the translation - particularly the dialogue - reads very stiffly to me:
"Sometimes I dream that I'm in a city that's Mexico City but at the same time it isn't Mexico City, I mean, it's a strange city, but I recognize it from other dreams - I'm not boring you, am I?"The stiffness makes a novel about literature, a chore to read. Adolescent obsession is something I really don't have to live through a second time. I find Juan Garcia's utter lack of self awareness makes it completely uninteresting to read about. At least Holden Caulfield had a sense of humor. And the dream of machismo Juan Garcia is so eager to fulfill in this world of pimps and poets just seems silly and dated. I find nothing to admire in machismo, and am not as drawn to the romance of seedy as I am to some other kind of environments, but I don't think I am limited in this way when the medium compels me - I'm a big fan of the songs of Jacques Brel. I thought that the movie The Beat That My Heart Skipped was great. Both the book and film of Midnight Cowboy, though as seedy as can be, are somehow romantic - it's a real love story. These aren't worlds I want to live in, but they were made accessible to me through works of art. But this endless series of all-night cafes, semen, and a literature that is talked about but that we never see, is wearing thin on me.
"As I was saying, it's a vaguely strange and vaguely familiar city. And I'm wandering endless streets trying to find a hotel or a boardinghouse where they'll take me in. But I can't find anything. All I find is a man pretending to be a deaf-mute. And worst of all is that it's getting late, and I know that when night comes my life won't be worth a thing, will it? I'll be at nature's mercy, as they say. It's a bitch of a dream," he added reflectivley.
Have any of you read this? Does it get better?