Slowly slogging my way through 2666. Reading a book this long very slowly is a kind of luxurious experience, a decidedly un-teleological reading experience. Many people have problems finishing long books simply because they’re long – they look daunting, one has to read a lot before there’s even some semblance of progress. Somewhere after a few hundred pages, it can seem like no progress is being made at all, that one is adrift. It’s easy to grow angry with the author: “You could have done that sequence in two pages – instead you took 50! Why!”
I’ve experienced this – I’m often surprised when I finish a really long novel. I read The Executioner’s Song when I was 18 – I think the only thing that got me through it was the idea that working through Gary Gilmore’s heinous life was easier than dealing with freshman year anxiety. Now I have no anxieties about 2666. I have no plans to write about 2666 and I have no anger towards Bolano (who’s dead anyway, so). In an introduction to some edition of Henry James’s The American Scene, somebody (I want to say Isaiah Berlin?) says something like “Henry James would have wanted you to read this over the course of several months, reading only a few pages a day and lingering over them for an hour or more.” I found The American Scene intolerably anchorless and airy, an excercise in languor in which we’re handed the wet laundry of James’s prose without a plot to hang it out on.
But no such compunctions with Bolano. And no thoughts to share either, except to say that in the days in which I began the already notorious “The Part About The Crimes” my apartment was broken into.