The Morning News Tournament of Books, sponsored by Powell’s Books, is an annual battle royale amongst the top novels in “literary fiction” published throughout the year. Read more about this year’s tournament »
The Savage Detectivesby ROBERTO BOLAÑO
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Nameby VENDELA VIDA
I spent a long afternoon into evening with Vendela Vida’s curious and implausible tale, seeing where it was going even as I wondered why it would go there, and trying hard not to imagine Jennifer Aniston as the lead in the Hollywood version. Then I spent a couple of weekends slogging through the cacophony of witnesses recalling the elusive subjects of Roberto Bolaño’s much-touted masterpiece, in which every third character is an obvious role for Gael García Bernal.
Apples and oranges have more in common than these two authorsSpanish-inflected surnames notwithstanding. Perhaps because all the world over, a beatnik is a beatnikand a Believer something else entirely.
The Savage Detectives is complex, intellectual, and cool. I’m sure if I were to reread it I would pick up many subtleties and ambitions. Possibly, also, its importanceof which I’m passively convinced, but which has eluded me.
Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name is unique and scrupulous. There is no mystery to this message-driven novel. It has a lingering atmosphere (being all Arctic, native, and spooky) but no lasting questions.
So it comes to this: The world (and my bookcase) is full of carefully crafted puzzles and dense, demanding novels that must, and will, be read again and again. As such, they (being Bely and Faulkner, Sebald and Pavic, Gaddis and Gadda) are the darlings of my personal library. But I will not be re-reading Bolaño, because his playfulness is coarse and his crypticism is narrow.
The winner is Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Namea peculiar story that I will never re-read, because it was completely satisfactory the first time through. And these days, I’m all about immediate gratification and simple pleasures. Besides, I have to save my reader’s ambition for the new translation of War and Peace someone gave me for Christmas.
|The only adult American men who read fiction for pleasure anymore are you, me, and the nine male judges in this tourney.||Kevin||John||Maybe good books should challenge us, push us to the limits of our abilities as readers and thinking creatures as fans of The Savage Detectives say it does.|