2666–The Big Book of BEA?

Chad Post is declaring 2666 the "big book" of BEA

Jeff’s comments about how they marketed The Savage Detectives and what they’re doing for 2666
was fascinating to me. (As I told him afterwards, I think Jeff’s one of
the most brilliant publicists out there and I could spend a whole panel
simply interviewing him.) In a very real way, 2666 may be the “Big Book” of BEA
2008 that I claimed didn’t exist in my last post. Jeff said the
response has been overwhelming and that they gave out 400 copies (!) of
the galley at the book fair. I know print runs smaller than that . . .

He was incredibly honest about facts and figures related to The Savage Detectives,
revealing that in the catalog they put the initial print run at
35,000-40,000 and that based on advances in the mid-teens (16-17,000)
the first printing was in the low-20s. All of which is remarkable. The
Natasha Wimmer essay was a huge help in creating a context for
reviewers to approach the book, as was the website they specially
created for this book. Jeff gave both New Directions and FSG
editor Lorin Stein a lot of credit for helping make Bolano take off,
even saying that three-in-one paperback set was an idea of Lorin’s.

Since we’re talking 2666 and sales potential, I might as will blog a little about why I’m not sure 2666 will have the same appeal as TSD did.

During BEA I finally got to meet Martin Riker of the Dalkey Archive Press, and one of the things we talked about were my ongoing impressions of 2666. I really think this is a book that requires a good deal of patience from the reader, and it’s somewhat atypical among the Bolano I’ve read in that it moves extremely slowly and doesn’t have any really compelling characters.

That’s not to say that I have an unfavorable view of the book (I’ve yet to make up my mind); just that its not exactly the Bolano that people who have read the translations thus far will know.

Martin had an interesting response to this. His impression was that Bolano, especially in The Savage Detectives, had been sold as an author that pulls you in from the start and keeps holding on all the way through. His impression was that this was no small factor in this book’s broad popularity.

I can’t comment on the degree to which this is true, but, if this is true, then I think a lot of people are going to have their expectations of 2666 challenged once they start reading the book. That is, if they’re expecting something that "pulls you in," I don’t think they’ll find that in 2666.

Just to give an example, right now I’m reading a 300-page section right in the heart of 2666. This part, I think, is the main part of this book.It’s largely comprised of short (1- to 2-page) police-style narrations of discovering the bodies of murdered women and then brief explanations as to whether the murderer was found or not. That’s mostly what this section is, over and over again.

This is not the most gripping material. It’s moving at its own pace according to somewhat obscure logic, it’s frequently gruesome, and you need to have a lot of patience to let it develop on its own and speculate about where it is going. I don’t remember any section from TSD that’s like this.

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Wow, that section does sound . . . challenging.
That said, I’m with Chad Post, at least to the extent that I know 2666 was the novel I had the most conversations about at BEA {Well, maybe aside from Mario Lopez’s new book about his abs.} The book itself was the main draw, but FSG’s marketing and design were also being justly rewarded for their innovation by becoming conversation topics–and buzz creators.
That, and another conversation with friends at the show, finally led me to break down and pick up The Savage Detectives. I’m a couple years behind most people, but I think it’s finally Bolano time for me.

The design on those paperbacks was rather beautiful, wasn’t it?
Extremely good to hear you’ve gotten a copy of TSD. I don’t think that’s the best place to start with Bolano–but who cares? I’m just happy you’re reading him!

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