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my book o' the summer

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message 1: by Anne girl (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:53PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anne girl  Hi friends
I am so excited to start the savage detectives post. And it is in English and I just hope and pray for the day to come when I'm cool enough to read it in Spanish. Super summer sticky book when you look up to find it's gone dark and you've finished your coffee and your water and people you live with have long gone to bed and you take a deep breath and just dive in again, cuz you can and cuz it really wants you to.

message 2: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Ok, so finished the book and have been trying desperately to figure out the ending.

what is outside the window? what does this mean? is this all we get to read of Cesarea's poetry? is this even her poetry, or one of Garcia Madero's games? why don't we get to read any of the other characters poetry? it's an absence that i didn't fully realize until i was almost finished with the book, all i want is an example of Visceral Realism!

the anti-climatic meeting with Cesarea is baffling, yet somehow seems fitting. she still maintains the mystery that i had grown to expect from her; after the intense and prolonged build-up i couldn't have bared her acting like any other character in the book. it was only right that she appeared like an immense (figuratively and literally) being at the end of the novel, saving our young visceral realists.

i'm so eager to hear what others have to say about the ending, as i don't know anybody who has read this book (though i'll be recommending it now!) By the way Anne, i've had exactly the same experience with this book, i was completely lost in it!

Andrew I just finished this incredible book.

I don't know what's outside the window, and I don't really sweat it. To me, that's about perception and what you learn/observe when you're looking for something. Like the Lima and Belano's search for Cesarea. They weren't disappointed at the end, at least I don't think so.

spoilers ahead:

Personally, I loved the meeting with Cesarea. Everything about her character. Her stature, her demeanor, her final actions. She's still the "mother of all visceral realists." I don't really think the visceral realist poetry was ever the point, which is why you never see it. It was just a scene, just an identity for these characters, for most, a lost or pathetic cause. Even Garcia Madero in his second account seems increasingly disenchanted with it/Lima/Belano.

The movement and its 2 leaders were magical in the first section, popping up here and there, but during The Savage Detectives, they stop being so mysterious and become very human. You learn about their heartaches, experiences, failures, and friendships. Certainly they don't lose all their mystique (Belano's duel on the beach? Lima filling the nets with fish? Belano in Africa, period?)

But Garcia Madero's change in attitude towards the 2, which took about all of 400 pages of part 2 for me to develop, really took me off guard, I didn't feel like I was coming back to the same young man.

one last inconsistency/nitpick: The conversation Belano and Lima have with Amadeo Silvetierra (sp) is said to occur in January 1976 in Mexico City. How is that possible when in part three it's clear they spend all of January 1976 outside of Mexico City? This bothered me, as it was kind of a crucial step on their search.

message 4: by Nate D (last edited Jun 27, 2008 01:06AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nate D I'm glad you two have appeared since I last checked this page, immediately upon finishing the book two weeks ago. This is going to be a response to these last two posts, so yes, it is all spoilers.

Andrew, the bold headers of each section of part 2 indicate the location and date of the interview itself, rather than having any bearing on when the events discussed in the interview took place. So someone interviewed Amadeo in January immediately after the poets left town. They already had their destination in mind, so their visit with Amadeo would have to have taken place sometime in December or before.

Which leads to the question that brought me back here tonight: who is conducting the interviews? Who has spent twenty years tailing the last two visceral realists and compiling their stories? Maybe it doesn't matter, but I've read too many stories where it does matter not to at least think about it. Clearly it's not Garcia Madero, even if he cared to, as the interviews begin when he's in Sonora. Likewise, they can't be (amusing as it might be) some long-lasting repercussion of the deaths, as it begins before they occur. Thoughts?

What's outside the window? For some reason, the dotted line seems to urge reader participation (cut on the dotted line, paste the sticker over the outlined shape). So: fill in the blank. With anything you'd like. The simple sheet before was already the essence of possibility, interpretation-wise, so this is like taking it another step further and turning it back on the reader. Even the outline, the one given in the system, seems uncertain.

What's outside the Window? Anything and everything. Seek it.

(Probably excessive one step further: Start a literary movement about it. It's more cryptic than that, but that's the feeling I get.)

Or not. This only just occurred to me and has no real basis in anything, and I haven't really delved too far into what the book is doing thematically, so I have no idea if this interpretation even fits. But now that I've written that down, it feels right in some way, and I really like it as an ending.

(I assume Garcia Madero is writing these, since he'd started the general idea with the Mexicans before finding Cesarea's notebooks, but it might as well be her.)

message 5: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea you know? I hadn't even noticed that the change in Garcia Madero's attitude at the end of the book. For the reader we have been allowed to see the humanity in Lima and Bolano; Garcia Madero wasn't given that benefit. This does make his shift in attitude very strange. But one thing that Bolano (the author, I have no accent marks on my keyboard) said at some point is that the larger the work the more susceptible it is to errors, one of reasons he preferred to write poetry (gosh, we're so lucky he needed to make money off of fiction!)

I believe the person conducting the interview is Ernesto Garcia Grajales (page 519 in my book). What do you make of the fact that this so called expert on visceral realism has no information on Garcia Madero? It's as if Madero is really only an observer in everything, I mean, he remains completely inactive in the whole middle part of the book. Later we find out he has disappeared with Lupe. Lupe is also a strange character with no literary ties, for me, she is just an excuse for Lima and Bolano to go searching for Cesarea.

Wow, Nate, I absolutely love your theory about the dotted line! This is why I am incapable of reading a book on my own, I need to go back to college to get ideas from other people!

So, I did a bunch of research on this book and Roberto Bolano in general and found some interesting things thematically. One thing is that all the characters seem to spiral outwards, and though 600 pages is devoted to trying to form explanations and locate people/ideas, nothing is actually solved. Everybody spirals out to all different directions and never returns to where they once were. Sounds like pretty accurate description of life in general, huh?

I guess 2666 is exactly the opposite, where the characters implode on each other in the center of the book. I am so excited to read this book, can't wait until the translation is complete!!! I read another book about the Juarez murders but it was terrible, Desert Blood I think...don't bother.

Nate D And I apparently need others to prompt me as well: I had no well-formed opinion on the dotted line until I sat down to write that post.

Interesting. I suppose Ernesto Garcia Grajales would made sense as a primary interviewer, since he professes such knowledge of the movement. But in that case, who is interviewing him? I had assumed a single interviewer/compiler.

Andrew I was going to suggest Ernesto Garcia Grajales when Nate asked, but I came to the same problem, who's interviewing him? And thanks, Nate, for pointing out the obvious (someone's interviewing the people in section 2, for some reason I had it stuck in my head they were written testimonials).

Ernesto Garcia Grajales section gave me fits, I really hated the guy because he thought he was an expert on visceral realism. I thought it was cleverly placed right at the end of the Savage Detectives because by that time I'd been so enveloped by the book and the characters that I was getting defensive and protective that anyone would call himself an expert on visceral realism, haha.

Speaking specifically of that section, I felt sad that no one included Garcia Madero in the history of visceral realists. Perhaps part 3 and his change in attitude (or my perceived change in his tone/attitude), hints that he never really did join the movement wholeheartedly, and either way, they never published again I'm guessing. Maybe he took looked outside the window and started his own movement, or maybe with Lupe, gave up poetry altogether.

message 8: by Nate D (last edited Jun 27, 2008 09:01AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nate D Pompous as Ernesto Garcia Grajales may be, it's sort of hard to fault him for failing to know about Garcia Madero given that he never publishes anything. Incidentally, the fact that the interviewer knows to ask about Garcia Madero -- the only place he turns up in all the interviews -- is probably a significant fact in determining the interviewer's identity, if it matters.

Garcia Madero's apparent disappearing act is a nice parallel to Cesarea's, except she at least left a written trail (however short). Maybe it'll take a new generation of visceral realists to follow his long-cold footsteps through the Sonora and track down his complete works. If the interviewer had conducted all of the interviews in 1996, I'd say that that was his/her role, and next act.

message 9: by Rebecca (last edited Jul 04, 2008 03:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rebecca So glad to have this thread-- I just finished the novel and am craving a way to discuss it!

Nate, I really like the reader-participation theory about the dotted line, and in fact that made me think that perhaps we are meant to see ourselves as the interviewers for the second section. The sequence of first-person voices there somehow felt very intimate to me, as if I was hearing these direct confessions, and I realized that I was being put in the position of a detective just from reading more and more.

Whether this theory makes sense or not, the novel did raise the question for me of what it means to learn about someone through someone else's account and, more generally, whether we can ever really know another person, however thorough our research is. Though I haven't figured it out yet, this novel is definitely trying to say something about the nature of literature and the Novel (the genre). The spiralling (love that image, Chelsea) of all these stories is so contrary to the usual narrative arc where a central character grows more and more clear to us the more we read. What's Bolano doing by defeating our expectations as a reader-- giving us instead all these brilliant glimpses into other people's lives instead of letting us get to know Belano and Lima (at least in the way we'd expect)?


message 10: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea Nate, good point that the interviewer does ask about garcia I have no idea who they may be!

I love the way Bolano gets us to understand Lima and Bolano from so many perspectives. He really makes us question the various narrators and the bias' that they may have. In the end we find that we're questioning all of the narrators and therefore the central narrator/interviewer. He really messes with our perceptions.

Rebecca, not only can we never really know another person but we can never fully understand a literary movement or even something as micro as a single novel. There will always be gaps in understanding when trying to compile a 'history' of any literary movement.

Considering that this book is somewhat of an autobiography what do you think this says about the author and his own literary movement???

message 11: by Nate D (last edited Sep 30, 2008 12:25AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nate D Rebecca, as far as I'm concerned your reader-as-part-II-interviewer theory makes the most sense of any I've heard. Almost like the reader climbs through the final window and into the pages. It's still weird from the standpoint of the interviews commencing before the window, but I'm less concerned about that when it makes such good conceptual sense.

The novel is certainly about literature, but it seemed to "spiral" around those themes rather than actually pinpointing anything I've hit upon to sum it up. Does anyone know what happened to Bolano's real-life literary movement when he left Mexico?

message 12: by Seth (last edited Aug 31, 2009 04:42PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Seth T. As far as the inteviewer goes, it's everyone or no one. We can surmise this as one of the interviewees is addressing Arturo directly, as he writes the poet his final paycheck. Yet the interviewer cannot be Arturo because some of the interviewees speak of him as being very distinct from the interviewer—to the point that the British girl simply refers to him as night watchman (or something similar, I forget exactly). Also, he would not have been present to interview either Amadeo or (probably) Quim.

While it's possible that these interviews are each prepared by numerous interviewers (even as Section Two has numerous narrators), my guess is that these monologues or soliloquies are interviews pulled straight out of the minds of these individuals and then compiled by some omniscient spirit of poetry or some such literary force. This would explain why the interviews are so colourful and honest. Even the one from Arturo's boss as he gives him a final paycheck is far too long a speech for someone to realistically sit through without interjection or encouragement. My suspicion is that these are idealized accounts prompted by natural means (a snippet of conversation, a stray memory, etc.) but gathered via meta-natural means. In that sense the interviewers are simply the subconscious ruminations of the interviewees themselves, recorded magically by this Mexico's creator-spirit, Roberto Bolaño.

As far as the book's theme goes, I'd say it's probably about the the life-and-death of a movement of literary desperation. I believe it was Quim's son's interview that speaks of the readers of the literature of desperation. If nothing else, that is the defining feature of visceral realism. It intends to be revolutionary. It intends to forge itself into the only viable future for Mexican poetry. It wants to change the world and shake things up. But Quim's son outlines it's inevitable demise as an irrelevancy when he speaks of such literature as the kind of thing one must either grow out of or stultify in.

I think Bolaño hits this from a different direction in 2666, when he writes:

"I get the idea perfectly, Mickey," said Archimboldi, thinking all the while that this man was not only irritating but ridiculous, with the particular ridiculousness of self-dramatizers and poor fools convinced they've been present at a decisive moment in history, when it's common knowledge, thought Archimboldi, that history, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness.

He's writing about movements of desperation and those who are desperate to be a part of movements. In both cases, he is critical of these, demonstrating them to be fools despite and because of their passions. Both books are about futility, but while the Savage Detectives is about the futility of the written word, 2666 is about the futility of everything else.

Votec23 I just finished the book and I liked this thread more so than any other for this book and thought I would share my thoughts here.

This is the second book I have read by Roberto Bolano, the first being The Skating Rink. Where Arturo Belano is also a main character, it is during his time as a night watchman at the camp grounds. Pretty interesting stuff looking back on it now.

As for the ending, I really like the idea of the last window being a cut out. Another possibility, though I think the cut out is my favorite and most likely, is that is the blinding rays of the sun that kind of extend through the window-- though the evenness of the dashes make the cut out a more valid and likely possibility. Still interesting.

And after reading some of the discussion, I thought that maybe Garcia Madero may have been the interviewer. After years of isolation, withdrawn in the desert of Sonora, he goes around the world to see what happened to his two friends. And perhaps he asks Ernesto Garcia Grajales about himself as a sort of self pitying joke.

Now I am going to give myself some time off before I jump into 2666-- maybe I will check out Monsieur Pain that just came out in english.

message 14: by Ryestye (new)

Ryestye What is outside the window is the same as what is inside. Lima and Belano were, and never could be, more than what each person who knew them thought they were, and similarly, Lima and Belano could never be more than what they thought of their respective selves. No journey or quest could change that. No book or poem could change that. The context of the self colors everything. Literature + illness = illness.

message 15: by Daniel (last edited Mar 02, 2011 11:03PM) (new)

Daniel Strand Great thread! I doubt that Garcia Madero is the interviewer, given the fact that he can't have been isolated for years and later compiling the interviews, when the first one of these (with Amadeo Silvetierra) is actually recorded in January 1976 – at the time when he is still in Sonora.

Another thing I've thought about is that the title of the novel doesn't only refer to the third part of the story, but maybe even more to the middle part: a savage and ambitious, but in the end quite unsuccessful, attempt to trace two persons that constantly slide off our sight. The savage detectives of this book are not primarily Lima and Belano in their search for Tinarejo, but all the persons in the second part trying to grasp them. And this might confirm the "theory" above that there's not one single interviewer doing the research, but rather a huge collective of people.

Elise It seems to me that WHO the individual interviewer is is not so important. What struck me are the parallels between Belano and Lima's search for Tinajero; a poet who never really achieved any legitimate success in the literary world, but who is the mother of visceral realism, and the interviewer's search into the lives and poetry of Belano and Lima, the fathers of second generation visceral realism, who also never really achieve much literary standing. It seems that another eager, young avant-garde poet is following the same trail that Belano and Lima embarked on when they were equally young and eager.

I do not believe Garcia Madero is the narrator, nor do I believe that he would have abandoned poetry after his encounter with Belano and Lima. He was scores more knowledgeable and educated about poetry, and I think he realized that, while they both romanticized poetry, neither of them was really dedicated to writing. What they were after was something more than form and verse and rhyme, and that is the cut out for the reader to piece together.

message 17: by Brad (last edited Aug 24, 2011 09:39AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I agree, Lima and Belano were certainly after something much more than a single poet; or, for that matter, more than the pursuit of their own fame as writers. I go back and forth as to whether they were just after a good journey. It sounds so simple, but then I realize their journey, each of them, was anything but simple. I wonder if they just associated a "free bird" quality with poets. They live, they travel, they do. Chasing after that legacy and lifestyle may have been their ultiamte goal.

What really intrigued me was the way Bolano writes the novel with a very decentralized plot. Could we say Lima and Belano, maybe even Madero at times, are the main characters? Sure. Yet, the book itself is not about them. It is about Visceral realism, about really feeling the experience of being alive. To me this is really the epitome of postmodernism; awareness of awareness. We hear from Xochitl, Simone Darrieux, Epifanio, Salvatierra...the book is about all of is about no one in particular, this is what is so masterful about this book. This is why, and I will speak for myself becuase I understand that many wanted more 'closure', that I was not disappointed with the ending. It was anti-climatic. It didn't expalin anything. It was rather short...but I suggest that this is becuase the book was never really about them, about the "leaders" Lima and Belano. The fact that they could be called central characters, does not make the book about them. Bolano is a genius, the savage detectives is a brilliant work that I think challenges the reader to read in a very different way, even for those among us who think we understand postmodernism. Abandon construction and allow each individual section, character and sentence to stretch your mind!

Ajeng It took me a while to get used to the narrative style. But if you keep being patient and just enjoy the stories of each narrator, you'll get used to the interlinked characters.

The biggest achievement in the book is I think how detached and remote Lima and Belano stay throughout the book.

Brilliant and original work indeed. I see where all the praise comes from. It's the sort of book that left you dazzled and thought, "Whoooaaaaa... what was that?!" in pure amazement.

message 19: by Tim (new)

Tim Brad wrote: "I agree, Lima and Belano were certainly after something much more than a single poet; or, for that matter, more than the pursuit of their own fame as writers. I go back and forth as to whether the..."

Yes I think the ending relates back to that brief section in Part 2 when the authors are being interviewed. They all say that life begins as a tragedy and ends as such and such, and to me the ending can be interpreted as tragic or comic depending on the person reading the novel.

I can't wait to read 2666, that is if I can carry the thing.

message 20: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad I started 2666 but felt underwhelmed. I blame myself though, I wanted more savage detectives :)
I'll go back and start again when I know I can commit to a month of straight reading!

As a matter of fact, if anyone wants to start a pseudo book club and read 2666, let me know, I'd be down.

message 21: by Toby (new) - added it

Toby Reiner The conversation with Amadeo Salvatierra didn't take place in January 1976. The interview with him in which he described the conversation he had with Lima and Belano happened in January 1976. He's describing something that had happened previously. So, presumably the conversation with Amadeo Salvatierra took place in December 1975 or earlier.

message 22: by Justin (new)

Justin On the question of the identity of the interviewer: on p. 205 of the paperback edition, Auxilio Lacouture says, near the end of her interview, "And that's all, my young friends." This gave me the impression that perhaps there were multiple interviewers (which nicely parallels the interviews that we know were done by Belano and Lima in their own, earlier search). Who precisely the multiple interviewers might be is beyond me (and probably isn't terribly important), but I wanted to throw that idea out there.

message 23: by John (last edited Feb 14, 2014 05:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Leighton I think it's obvious what's outside the window. The strobe lights of police cars, coming for them after the duel they had with the gangsters that turned them into fugitives.

The other puzzles had literal answers, nothing grand or figurative. Same here.

message 24: by Alejandro (new)

Alejandro Hi, I think I'm the only one who have read this book in spanish (I'm actually chilean, like Bolaño). I don't know in english, but in smy language is a remarkable book: A masterclass of how spanish show be used.
Anyway, that's not the relevant matter of my post, just want to share with you a crippy/cool fact. The very same day that Bolaño received the first edition of The Savage Detectives he was told that Mario Santiago died. For those who don't know:
Roberto Bolaño = Arturo Belano.
Mario Santiago = Ulises Lima.

message 25: by Brad (new) - rated it 5 stars

Brad Thanks for sharing! I did not know that Santiago = Lima

message 26: by Zarathustra (new)

Zarathustra I just finished the Savage Detectives last night. I didn't make much sense of the ending before going to bed. What the ending meant - what's outside the window - woke me from a dream.

There is one day separating each square drawing. Time is passing. This isn't like earlier in the section when the drawings are all made at the same time.

The February 14 drawing is of a sheet. This is two weeks after the pimp and the policeman are killed. Why is there a sheet outside the window? They are being Hunter, and they want to surrender.

February 15. Here the window (or the building) has holes in it. Why? It's being riddled with gunfire.

That's the last we hear from Garcia Madero.

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