Posts tagged ‘Book Review’

More Stuff I Like: The Savage Detectives

Why is it that we have the easiest time talking about the most trivial, mundane things, but when it comes to those things that matter, that move us, that shake us to the core –love, death– words always fail? A year ago I tried blogging about a TV show (RuPaul’s Drag Race) and although –or rather, precisely because– it was so unabashedly vacuous, I found the words pouring out of me: sharp, funny, piquant. To this day I think (and regret) that it was probably one of the best pieces I ever wrote.

Meanwhile when I want to speak about things of substance and sublimity I find myself grasping at chaff as the living grain slips through my fingers. (But, if the grain which falls to the earth does not die, it stays alone; while if it dies, it brings forth fruit.) Which is why I am struggling as I sit here trying to write something about Roberto Bolaño.

I first encountered Bolaño in the Strand Bookstore a bit over a year ago. Not in the flesh, of course (he died in 2003) but in the form of a tall, teetering stack of his (at the time) most recently translated book, The Savage Detectives. I think I had read something about him somewhere (he would soon become omnipresent) and so I idly picked up a copy and flipped to the first pages:


I’ve been cordially invited to join the visceral realists. I accepted, of course. There was no initiation ceremony. It was better that way.


I’m not really sure what visceral realism is.

And from there on out I was pretty much hooked. (more…)


January 17, 2010 at 11:15 am 4 comments


My father told me to stop leaving half-empty beers around the house: “It’s 48 dollars a case, the least you can do is finish it.” I’m like that with cigarettes, too: halfway down the stick, and I’m burned out (but they’re not). I even keep two ashtrays, one for the sad, shrivelled, definitively burned-out butts; the other for the halfsies, the failed attempts, the ones with a few drags left.

Today I tore the nail on my right ring finger and started paring down the others to match, but halfway through I lost steam, or got sidetracked, or thought of something else. Now the nails on my right hand are cut close to the flesh, while the left hand… didn’t get the memo about what the right was doing. Can I tell everyone I’m a guitar player?

It’s like a bad joke, or a bad metaphor for, like, our modern condition and… stuff. Or like a scene from Benjamin Kunkel’s novel, Indecision– a great book, but I never finished it.

December 28, 2009 at 6:58 am Leave a comment


Bennett Carpenter
Leiden, Netherlands

Random musings about literature, art, politics and (occasionally) my life as a graduate student in sunny Holland. Click on the pic for more about me.


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