Serious Grousing and 2666

Zzzzzz Odd Trundles is sitting in my office, half asleep, groaning. There wasn’t enough peanut butter in his breakfast bowl, he isn’t allowed to chase Fearless!Cat, Bandit the Cavy isn’t available for sniffing, there are never enough ear-rubs.

It’s tough, being Trundles. Pretty soon he’ll wander into my bedroom, still grousing, hop up on my bed, and proceed to nap like the cranky toddler he is.

Meanwhile, the rest of us have actual work to do. Copyedits, wordcount, and administrivia for me. The Princess painted her room this past weekend–a lovely shade of blue, one she picked out personally. She didn’t want help, wanted to paint on her own, so I bit my lip and sat on my hands. And she’s done a marvelous job, even changing the outlet covers herself. Now she’s rearranging her bedroom furniture to suit the new walls.

The Prince, of course, has serious grousing of his own to do, since he is barred from playing video games. (Long story.) He can read, or ride his bike, or occasionally visit one of his friends who hasn’t lost gaming privileges. Being thrown upon his own resources is best for him in the long run–I am hoping the lesson’s sting will be, in the end, salutary–but for right now he bitches like the furious teenage boy he’s becoming. I suppose the fact that I find this amusing doesn’t help his pride, and his sister, having been through this storm herself and come out the other side as well, is very little help.

Poor Little Prince. Poor Trundles. The world is a vale of sorrow, indeed.

I finished Bolano‘s 2666 this past weekend, too. I have a couple more of his books from the library, but have bounced pretty hard off one in first person. The other, in tight third person, is palatable. Part of the problem, I think, is that toxic machismo that permeates so much modern (and ancient) culture. Bolano’s female characters aren’t real, they’re reflections of women seen through a male lens, and it’s somewhat insulting to read them.

This is an insult I’m well accustomed to in today’s world. Although I did like Elvira Campos the asylum director. (The eternal question, “Who is truly mad, those inside an asylum, or those outside?“) She, to me, was the closest thing to an actual woman in the whole damn book.

On the other hand, a major theme of 2666 (you could even say it’s the theme) is the epidemic rapes and murders of women in Ciudad Juarez. I suppose when even a male writer takes notice of such a thing it’s suddenly regarded as very dire indeed, instead of just the way things are, just the price women have to pay for daring to be born at all.

Bolano lived, as Michael Berger notes, under two repressive regimes himself, and wrote 2666 when he was dying of liver failure. In that alone, the book is a remarkable achievement. What I liked best about it was the consistency.

So often, when a writer sets out to accomplish a massive major work, it can get bogged down in stuntwriting, or the desire to please an audience rather than to tell the truth. The massive major works that I enjoy all have what I call internal consistency, where even if the writer is mad or a hideous person (Bukowski‘s awful misogyny springs to mind, he’s a great example) they’re still true to the story struggling to birth itself through their heads. They don’t look away, and even their insanity is honest. Even the lightest digression in 2666 is consistent with everything else, it’s all of a piece. The world he’s created, whether it’s a funhouse reflection of reality or the song underlying reality itself, or even just reality, is thoroughly and completely true to itself even in detail.

It’s exhausting to live that way, let alone write. For that alone, Bolano has my respect, and 2666 was worth the price of admission.

Trundles has groaned himself into his morning nap while I write this, and the Princess is still busily dragging furniture in her room. I suppose it’s time for me to get started on other work, too. The weather report says things will get nastily hot later in the week, but for right now the window is open, there is a lovely cool breeze, and I can hear birdsong threading through the Sigur Ros playing behind me.

Summer is here.