I read the bulk of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 in late December, the last time the stomach flu rampaged through my house. It’s a very good book to read in the middle of the night when you’re not sure whether or not you’re going to throw up. The landscapes in the book — like the bathroom at 3am — are very brightly lit and clear, but also unsettlingly shifty.
(The last time I had food poisoning was in New Orleans on New Year’s Eve 1994, and I was reading Pale Fire; also entirely appropriate to the occasion, and in much the same way.)
The reason I bought 2666 wasn’t because I knew I was getting stomach flu, but because of my occasional worry that I’m too old to experience a new novel as a masterpiece. Rather: most of the time think I’m too old to experience a new novel as a masterpiece, and occasionally I consider this cause for worry. And when that happens I buy and read the acknowledged masterpiece of the moment, to see if I can get those bumpers to light up one more time.
No lights this time. But I was glad to have read this big, nauseous book. Some comments below the fold — don’t proceed if (like me) you try to avoid prior knowledge of books you plan to read.