Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bolano's The Savage Detectives

I’ve given up on this novel more than once, but I have managed struggled up to page 170. I knew people like the ones Bolano is writing about, people who wrote poetry or worked on novels that few read or cared about. Although it would seem that in Mexico, Chile and Argentina more care about them than here in the U.S. – or perhaps it is just that our literati is more spread out, that part that isn’t running the small magazines for the Politically Correct, but then they are probably spread out too. Actually, before it became politically correct, it was rebellious – like the beats, the dropouts, and all those who opposed “the system.” So what do those in the little magazines who are saying things the system (which is synonymous with the Leftist Media)is also saying think? Never mind. Don’t tell me. I’m not that interested.

Eons ago I resolve to read all the great novelists, poets, and playwrights. I liked quite a lot of what I read, but I dutifully plodded through things I didn’t. That was even after I abandoned my plans for entering academia. I was never interested in travel. Why go off and look at something when you can read what truly perceptive writers wrote when they studied it. Maybe I’m not all that much into “looking” since my eyes went a wee bit bad – and then after I had the cataracts replaced with plastic lenses I was too set in my ways.

So when Jacinto Requena tells his little story (pp 165-170) about his pregnant girlfriend Xoxhitl and of how most of the “Visceral Realists” have decided to leave Mexico for Europe, he concludes “I’m not leaving Mexico.” The thing is, no one cares about the Visceral Realists. They concocted what they called a school of poetry, but it was more like a club – a group of people who got drunk together, slept with each other (including with the same sex, some of them) read poems to each other and talked into the wee hours about poetry, poets, novels and novelists. Some of them were also painters, but no one earned a living; although some got money presumably from parents, and some stole.

Where did I know such people? I knew a few in college who sounded a bit interesting when we talked after class, but they typically didn’t make it all the way to the end of a semester. I knew a few at the docks, where I worked part time while attending college, and I knew several in aerospace. I wasn’t in to begging or stealing so I decided to work for a living; which cut me off from my Visceral Realist friends who mostly talked about what they were going to write – aside from a very few poems; which I didn’t think were very good.

And we were all “rebellious” in those days, but what we rebelliously thought back then is politically correct now. Perhaps some of those I once knew settled more substantially into some of that. One of my Visceral Realist friends, Ken Hackney, who was laid off from McDonnell Douglas for not showing up for work often or sober enough, borrowed $50 from me years ago so he could travel from California to Kansas – or Missouri, to edit a small newspaper. Perhaps he, if he is still doing that, is churning out politically-correct editorials.

As for me, I never left Mexico – so to speak.

Lawrence Helm

San Jacinto, CA.

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