Wednesday, September 05, 2007

In the Desert of the Real

Amidst the nonsense of the "real," which I will get to later, there's this excellent review of Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives. Imposssible not to quote this from Kunkel''s piece:
One person who never shows up in the reminiscences, except when the recording angel behind the oral history asks unavailing questions, is the teenage poet García Madero. This is because, heartbreakingly, no one remembers or has heard of him. So by the time we get to the third section, we understand that the half-forgotten poets Belano and Lima took with them on their quest for the all-but-forgotten poet Cesárea Tinajero a poet whose name was written on even swifter flowing water. In this way The Savage Detectives partakes, paradoxically, of the general oblivion it describes, since oral histories of undistinguished and out-of-print poets are not assembled in the first place, any more than the diaries of mute inglorious Miltons from Mexico City are ever published. Moreover, because the narrators’ accounts of their own lives as they briefly criss-crossed Belano’s and Lima’s truly resemble oral testimony rather than essays, stories or poems, these accounts would appear (but only appear) to possess no particular literary value worth preserving. No novel I have read is so movingly and appallingly lifelike in its unthematised accumulation of time and grief, and in its un-coordinated march towards oblivion.
The trick is to unremember the ever-present ones, and remember the forgotten ones. Otherwise the march will never stop.

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