2666 by Roberto Bolaño. English translation by Natasha Wimmer. First edition three-volume slip case edition from FS&G. Design by Charlotte Strick. The image on volume one is a detail from Gustave Moreau’s Jupiter and Semele; on volume two, Academy by Cy Twombly; on three, a detail of a page on sea sponges from Albert Seba’s Cabinet of Curiousities. I’ve posted the images below for reference.
As I come near the end of this year-long Three Books thing, I find that I can’t not include Roberto Bolaño’s novel 2666, which is probably my favorite novel of the last twenty years. I initially resisted including it in one of these Three Books posts simply because it is, sort of, one book—and this particular edition is in a more readable three-volume set. But it’s also, maybe, five books—five “parts” anyway, which work together intertextually to tell a grand epic of love murder terror war reading writing etc. Too big to pin down in this puny post. I seem to be always reading the thing, or always wanting to read it. In any case, I’m almost positive it’s the book I’ve written the most review for on this site. A lazy edit from the Biblioklept “Reviews” page:
(The intertextuality is probably the least bad of those reviews, maybe).
Normally I just scan the covers for these Three Books posts, but when I unshelved and unslipcased 2666, I found that it was more…fun? natural? (those aren’t the right words)…it seemed better to put the books next to each other. Intertextuality by osmosis.
I have a vivid memory of buying this book at Green Apple Books in San Francisco in December of 2008 and then starting it on the plane ride home and then just sort of, I don’t know, consuming it, sucking it down like candy poison wine (these are bad metaphors). I’ve read it in full a few times since and it’s like an infection, it’s under my skin. I want to read it again, of course.
Thanks to Biblioklept reader Jescie for sending in this 2009 piece from Eye Level, which recounts film director John Waters narrating Cy Twombly’s collection Letter of Resignation. From the write-up—-
Baltimore-native Waters, best known for his films Hairspray and Pink Flamingos, spoke, if not performed, at the McEvoy Auditorium, as the inaugural speaker in the second annual American Pictures Distinguished Lecture Series. For one hour on Saturday afternoon, Waters shared his interpretation of Cy Twombly’s Letter of Resignation. From the word go, Waters had the SRO audience captivated as he “narrated” the thirty-eight separate drawings that make up this work. At times, Waters had us in stitches, relating slightly off-color stories, and using words not found in museum labels. Often in strong language, he created a persona, or voice for the letter writer: a disgruntled worker who is drafting (and re-drafting) his letter of resignation. By the thirty-eighth draft, he’s just about there. . . .
Waters, who keeps the Letters of Resignation catalogue by his bed, says that Twombly created “such confident work it makes people mad.” To detractors not fond of the work, Waters offered this retort, “This kind of contemporary art hates you too, and you deserve it.”