It seemed kismet that I found this book in the Crown Heights bookstore Hullabaloo right before I embarked for a 3-week trip to the author's birth counIt seemed kismet that I found this book in the Crown Heights bookstore Hullabaloo right before I embarked for a 3-week trip to the author's birth country. In researching my trip, I was surprised to find many historical sites and narratives that related to either German or Italian history in South America. A friend had mentioned that many Italian fascists relocated to South America -- hence all the funiculars?? Maybe? Weird. Anyway, this book is hilarious and, while invented, helped to contextualize all the connections I was finding in my research and then travels. I was also conscious of the fact that I was a gringa carrying around a book with a black and white cover with hot pink letters with the word "nazi" in visual prominence. This novel (novella?) presents a mapping of both failed and successful literary figures who have some connection to fascism and South America, including foundational families/clans and bit players who left volumes of work behind. I was struck by themes that Bolaño weaves into other works: Mother figures who serve as patrons to young writers; lost or hidden writers, works (sometimes self-) published in small chapbooks, the complexity of personal politics - i.e., the moment that may cement a person's political identity. I also loved the invented names and lineages of the writers! It concludes with an appendix of "secondary figures". ...more
Wow. What an ending. I think I will have that Grande Finale scene stuck in my mind every time I think of Knausgård for a while. A-hem. So now I'm in tWow. What an ending. I think I will have that Grande Finale scene stuck in my mind every time I think of Knausgård for a while. A-hem. So now I'm in the conundrum of being caught up. Here I am waiting for books 5 and 6 to be translated into English and reading Paris Review articles on 'what's next' for the writer. Good lord, Don Bartlett, hurry up! ha! (What a task, though, to translate these epic tomes. I hope this guy gets some equivalent prize b/c translation really is a work of art too!)
I enjoyed Book 4 more than 3 because of the time period being discussed –the transition into 'manhood' when one is ready to leave childhood behind, but one certainly does not have any judgment or life experience to become an adult. Instead one tries to manufacture those experiences for oneself with what we imagine as kids adulthood is like: freedoms, relationships, actions without consequences. Being close to 40 now, I had completely forgotten so much of this time period in my own life. Reading it reminded me of the first time watching "The Office" - being too embarrassed to watch what was happening on the screen because it was so familiar. Even though we had completely different childhoods, Knausgård was able to capture so many common themes and experiences - the emergence of underground, indie rock; how cool older sibling's worlds seemed; the desire to escape from but also fit better into your hometown world; the quest to understand sex; etc. But as someone who still doesn't know what she wants to be when she grows up (eek!), Knausgård's drive and dedication to his craft at such a young age is extraordinary, especially growing up in a community where there are no mentors and writing is not considered a profession. I personally know how hard it is to follow an artistic path when that is neither understood or encouraged. I am in awe he was able to do this in such a remote place.
I loved seeing the writer insert himself into the final chapters to provide some hindsight context and ask some questions about memory and how it works. Did these things happen -- or is this how he remembers them? What are these strange feelings he feels for some of his past students who show up to his modern day readings? I also enjoyed the writers depiction of his relationship with his mother, grandparents, brother and newly remarried father. These relationships keep evolving and it's interesting to be along for the ride. ...more
So I guess I'm ready for book 3. This one started off with less gusto for me because the excruciating opening scene at the toddlers birthday party wasSo I guess I'm ready for book 3. This one started off with less gusto for me because the excruciating opening scene at the toddlers birthday party was so painful to read. I didn't think I could get through it: bratty kids, self-obsessed parents beholden to the whim of their spoiled children, parents trying to mingle over birthday cake when they have nothing in common, big, ridiculous birthday parties for toddlers that parents feel compelled to hold, social anxiety, questioning your life decisions. . . all in the first 50-60 pages. Brutal. Luckily the narrative unpacks from there -- and the intimacies, insecurities, and deep perplexities about relationships, failure and success, and happiness all start to unravel from this opening scene. ...more