I am still working through 2666, still? the tome is only 900 pages long, I will be working on it for quite some time, and I think I know what has taken me by surprise here. There are plenty of writers that write about writing and about writers, as a way to insert autobiographical events, but Bolano has taken a different tack. The beginning of the book is about 4 literary critics that are chasing one author.
The critics are not obsessed and they strike me as normal, as far as academics are normal. The author they follow is non-existent: they do not know any biographical information about him and yet he is still publishing. This seems to be a way to keep the critics normal, a mechanism for Bolano to restrain himself from making the usual critics-as-nuts story. The critics in the book do not write, they publish. Bolano spends no time discussing writing and instead focuses mainly on their non-academic lives. It’s a strange inversion and one that I am enjoying if only because it is easy to see how it would probably go awry with a less capable writer.
I just finished a passage where the critics are put into the psychoanalytic microscope as writers normally are by the critic. The critics in this case are motivated by a desire for love. I suspect/hope Bolano will turn to why these wants are manifest in criticism and not in creative production. He does offers a glimpse into the presence/absence of imagination as a possible source of this split, but I have not yet seen the commitment for that to be his answer. Right now 2666 strikes me as a treatise about extravagance. I fear that he will make the critic’s task one of superfluousness and hence unnecessary.