Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summer Reading

Have you considered your summer reading roster yet? I have just been exploring how other people pick their list and the parameters of their decisions. Most suggestions include:

1. Books you own, but have not read.
2. Read a classic that you should have read in High School, but never did.
3. Include a History book.
4. Read a Biography.
5. Don’t forget a book of Poetry.
6. Don’t think for yourself and read what your favorite magazines choose.

What I found interesting is that none of the suggestions I found, suggest picking an author to focus on or even discover.

If this produces an “ah-yes” moment for you, I have an author for you.

The most refreshing work that I have come across recently is from Roberto Bolaño, the Chilean poet and author of twelve novels. He has received some of the Hispanic world’s highest literary awards. Born in Chile, he lived much of his life as a nomad, living in Mexico, El Salvador, France and Spain. He was at the front, as a founder, of an Avant-garde group of poets and writers in Mexico who called their work infarealism. Living in Spain, he died in 2003, at the age of fifty, of liver failure while waiting for a transplant. Years of hard-living finally paid their toll.

To make it simple, I would suggest starting with Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives- now in English translation), winner of the 1999 Romulo Gallegos Prize (Venezuelan). The novel centers on the poetic movement of visceral realism, which can be seen as an echo of Bolaño’s own infarealism. It is a road-book that is anything but linear.

Locations, characters and plot-threads expand to reflect a sense of displacement. Not unlike Bolaño’s own life, the characters travel in search of roots. This may cause some work on your part, because of the non-linear story. But remember, “Easy” is for magazines and such. Good literature should challenge you. Look for the tones, for it is there where you find more than just a story. Find yourself enmeshed in figuring out how Bolaño artfully weaves together his patchwork of poets.

As he points out, “All poets, even the most avant-garde, need a father. But these poets were meant to be orphans.” It is no wonder that the establishment figure of Octavio Paz is so brutally assailed. Let the person, inside of you, who loves to rebuff authority get some catharsis this summer.

Even if you have become the establishment- take a little time to explore the inner orphan in you.

1 comment:

Janice Phelps Williams said...

Your suggestion of finding a new author rather than just a new book is a good one. I just started doing this about a year or so ago and love it when I "discover" an author's body of work and realize the many books I have to look forward to reading...and then feeling a bit sad when I've read them all. Sue Miller, Amy Tan, Lisa See...are authors I love. Not as challenging perhaps as the author you mention, but challenging to me as a writer because I aspire to one day write as well as they do.