Matt's Reviews > The Savage Detectives

The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño
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's review
Apr 21, 2010

it was amazing
bookshelves: favorites, mexico
Recommended to Matt by: Heather
Read from August 01, 2010 to April 01, 2011 , read count: 1

This was my first Roberto Bolaño book ... and now I'm hooked (just picked up 2666!). He has an amazing storytelling ability--his use of conversation is mastery. He can jump in and out of one hundred characters with distinct voices and mannerisms and sayings, all interweaved with their own separate stories and emotion and tales. Many of these would be classic short stories in their own right.

The novel has three distinct sections. The first and third are narrated by a young visceral realist poet, the 17-year old Juan García Madero. These portions are linear and connected, and tell a specific story. The middle section is nonlinear and consists of a large number of characters (some imagined, some not) being "interviewed" and telling their stories as they relate to Arturo Belano (Bolaño's alter-ego in the book) and Ulises Lima. These stories are what I mentioned above, subsisting on their own but coming together to tell a grander tale of life and notoriety and expectation and aging. Note: I DID find the transition from the first to the second section abrupt and jarring--I had a harder time picking up the book as often once I reached that second section. BUT, after getting used to the new format, that section flowed as well as the others, especially toward its second half, when the pieces begin to fall together nicely and the many (many!) characters are recognizable both in their own subsequent interview entries and as the related characters tell their "other" sides of the story.

My writing has been inspired after reading The Savage Detectives. I have the desire to be a more a active part of literary "movement," or collective--whatever. The good old visceral realists.

Fantastic book. I will need to read it again, if not only to gain the inspiration again, but to be able to understand the vast multitude of characters, and how such people can relate to the goings-on and relationships within my own life.

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A quote or two can sum up some themes in the book:

"writing poetry was the most beautiful thing anyone could do on this godforsaken earth" (134)

"Literature isn't innocent." (154)

"what a shame that time passes, don't you think? what a shame that we die, and get old, and everything good goes galloping away from us" (185)

"Do you know what the worst thing about literature is? ... That you end up being friends with writers. And friendship, treasure though it may be, destroys your critical sense." (359)

"a poem doesn't necessarily have to mean anything, except that it's a poem" (397)

"in a burst of utter Mexicanness, I knew that we were ruled by fate and that we would all drown in the storm, and I knew that only the cleverest, myself certainly not included, would stay afloat much longer" (406)

"I try not to rush the passage from comedy to tragedy. Life does a find job on its own." (500)
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Reading Progress

08/09/2010 page 50
9.0% "Can't put this down. Sheesh."
10/18/2010 page 164
28.0% "I gotta get this book off my nightstand and into my hands more!"
01/28/2011 page 279
48.0% "going strong"
03/21/2011 page 510
88.0% "Addicted again."
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Heather matt your review is phenomenal; it's exactly how i feel about this book as it pertains to my own writing and the community of writers. jorden recently finished this book and felt the same way you did about the second section and then he LOVED the end. some of those stories from the second part absolutely haunt me. they feel like part of my life, that's how much they moved me. with time and distance i can say that i really loved the Skating Rink too. now i can't wait to talk to you about 2666 as you read it. wish you lived close and could meet with us in our poets' collective!

Matt I know ... I really need to be closer. but at least I can try to commune with fellow poetic spirits via the online at large community?

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