Dan Green has an interesting take on the book Kamby Bolongo Mean River. Notably, he breaks with the general consensus among Internet reviewers (I’m not aware of any print attention this book received) in registering a negative verdict:

That a novel perceived as unconventional would be applauded in this way is on the one hand an encouraging sign that a receptive audience (among reviewers and other writers, at least) for such work does exist. On the other hand, that this novel in particular was so highly admired for its putatively innovative qualities suggests to me that the reviwers might have been rewarding good intentions over actual achievement, the promise of an unconventional approach over the real thing. (And indeed it is rare enough that a novel that truly challenges reigning practices gets published.) If not, I have to conclude that these reviewers are simply giving too much credit to a novel that is more derivative than it is original, too easily translated into aesthetically conservative terms.

Most of the reviews (as well as this interview) cite Beckett as an influence on Lopez’s fiction, and, superficially at least, the situation portrayed in Kamby Bolongo Mean River does resemble those in works like Malone Dies or The Unnamable. But this is Beckett-lite, a catatonic version of Beckett’s stories of isolation and despair in which the unnamed protagonist lies in what seems to be a hospital bed, sometimes masturbates (as he repeatedly tells us) and sometimes answers the phone (or imagines himself doing so). Beyond the repetitious notations of his surroundings, the narrator also seems to reminisce about his childhood–seems, because we can’t be sure that anything we’re told is more than a delusion, a strangely patterned fever dream.

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