05 February 2010

Bolaño and the Poetic Pose

Ron Silliman on Bolaño's poetry:
The pose of Bolaño-the-poet may well be more important – and certainly more powerful – than the fact of the poems themselves, but what might be most useful here is to note the whole notion of Bolaño posing. The unifying – indeed distinguishing – element of these poems, written in a post-Beat free verse that might be closest in English to Lawrence Ferlinghetti or Ray Bremser, is the consistency of the pose: the intellectual as tough guy but one who is, at all moments, hard as nails & deeply sentimental. Think of upper limit Jean-Paul Belmondo in the films of Godard, lower limit Charles Bukowski (not as Mickey Rourke so much as Johnny Depp or, had he lived, Heath Ledger). Imagine Kerouac mixed with Camus.


  1. I haven't seen the poetry, but I read Monsieur Pain the other night -- enjoyed the trippiness and as always the seeming extemporaneous flow of the narrative -- although my favorite of the shorter fictions is The Skating Rink so far. Haven't read Distant Star. Which of the longer works did you like better -- Savage Detectives or 2666. I only have time for one of them now -- Do you have a suggestion?

  2. I actually haven't read 2666 yet, because I keep saving it for a grand project I've been meaning to attempt: reading Bolano's books in order. Haven't quite gotten to it yet, though I did just get Monsieur Pain yesterday, so can try to begin again...

    I adored Savage Detectives, but have noticed that a lot of people either really like only one or the other of SD vs. 2666. JeffV's been spending a lot of time with 2666 recently, reading it slowly and carefully, and said it's blowing his mind, and if I remember correctly he didn't enjoy Savage Detectives that much. I had a hard time getting in to SD at first and just figuring out what it was doing, but once I did, I never wanted it to end.

    That wasn't very helpful, was it?

  3. No, I get what you're saying. My fist approach to his writing (after reading something you'd written about him, btw), Last Evenings On Earth, I started and put down cause I couldn't get it at all. Then, a couple of months later, I hooked into one of the stories and I got it and was off. Each thing I read by him after that deepened my appreciation. He will be one of those writers that a lot of writers will believe will be easy to imitate but they'll never get there. Very idiosyncratic. I don't know if I coould take his style over a space of hundreds of pages. There are aspects to his writing that seem like they would be well suited to that, though. I guess all there is to do is dive in.

  4. Matt: That should be my "first" approach to his writing, not my "fist" approach.LOL! And that was me. JF

  5. Bolano is a stone-cold genius, whereas I've always considered Bukowski a minor talent. Certainly Bukowski's poetry is a big improvement over his prose, which reads like he composed it with meat hooks instead of hands. No subtlety, no grace, no music. SAVAGE DETECTIVES left this author envious, wanting to snap all the pens on the desk and crack my keyboard over my knee. Bukowski has NEVER had that effect on me...