Laura Leaney's Reviews > Bartleby & Co.

Bartleby & Co. by Enrique Vila-Matas
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's review
Jun 17, 2010

really liked it

I picked this up because I have such great affection for Melville's "Bartleby, the Scrivener," the Wall Street scribe who ultimately preferred "not to" write. I love the premise of this anti-book. The piece is a collection of footnotes, written by a reclusive hunchback who is unable to write. Very dark, very funny. I found myself nodding in agreement every five pages. Vila-Matas explores the reasons behind the pathological refusal to do what you know you crave to do. I enjoyed the narrator's friend, Luis Felipe Pineda, who kept a "blue folder with a large label, on which was written: 'Archive of abandoned poems.'" Anyone who has had the simultaneous desire to write and not write will love this book. There are terrific treatments on "artists of refusal," such as Salinger, Rimbaud, Camus. It took some number of pages to get past the oddity of the structure, but was well worth hanging tight for.

The opening lines: "I never had much luck with women. I have a pitiful hump, which I am resigned to. All my closest relatives are dead. I am a poor recluse working in a ghastly office. Apart from that, I am happy."
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Comments (showing 1-7 of 7) (7 new)

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message 1: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich This seem rather awesome. Nice review, from what you have said I feel I must read this.

Laura Leaney If you DO read it, I hope you like it. Part of my fascination with the book came from loving Melville's story so much.

message 3: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Excellent, then I'm sure I will. I always loved that story, it's so witty and funny. And reading a non-traditional book is always welcome.

message 4: by Jim (new)

Jim Hale I love this author and am going to order this one! His books about Paris and Dublin are also great fun.

message 5: by Laura (last edited Dec 09, 2014 05:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Laura Leaney Is that Dublinesque? I actually own that somewhere - and I haven't read it yet. This is the only book I've read by Vila-Matas. I wonder if the other books are as odd as this one. I'll have to look them up.

message 6: by Jim (new)

Jim Hale Oh yes. It is oddly wonderful. Helps if you've read Ulysses but not required.

Laura Leaney I've read Ulysses, but a thousand years ago. I think I can remember a good bit of it.

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