Here are a few more reviews of books I’ve read recently:
2666, Roberto Bolano
2666 is an amazing book. A series of five novellas, the book is held together by its mediation on violence, its natures, its forms, and its atrocities. At the heart of this is an examination of violence against women, most extraordinarily depicted in the fourth section, which details the deaths of dozens of women and girls in Santa Teresa, inspired by Ciudad Juarez. Taken alone, this section of the book would be an amazing achievement, but placed within the whole of 2666, it lifts the book into something truly mesmerizing, unique, and sadly, timeless.
The English edition of the book is also a beautiful, and amazing piece of translation by Natasha Wimmer. She was awarded the PEN Translation Prize for her work on the book in 2009 and, given the scope, the technique, and the sheer ambition of Bolano’s book, which she managed to convey without flaw, I think she was a very fitting winner.
Woes of the True Policeman, Roberto Bolano
Roberto Bolano’s Woes of the True Policeman is very much like the b-side of a single. A series of out takes, a view of his thought process for characters and arcs that would take place in 2666. In that way, it’s really only a book for those of you who, like me, loved 2666.
The book focuses primarily on Amalfitano, who appears in part one and two of 2666. His homosexuality is briefly mentioned (and then discarded as unlikely) in 2666, but in Woes, it is at the centre of the narrative as, at the age of 50, he discovers a new part of his sexuality through a relationship with a student. Amalfitano’s wife – who is also dead in this version – is radically different to the wife in 2666, and his daughter, Rosa, despite the emphasis on her in Woes, kind of floats around. Archimboldi is mentioned as well, but as a French writer, not a German, and there is an early spin at the centre piece of 2666, the Part About the Crimes. It’s all interesting stuff, and it’s all beautifully translated by Natasha Wimmer, but it never really comes together as an independent thing. Still, like I said, if you enjoyed 2666, there’s a lot here for you.
The Whifefire Crossing, Courtney Schafer
Courtney Schafer’s Whitefire Crossing last night an old school, adventure fantasy novel that will appeal to those who liked 80s fantasy, but modernised for its time. A diverse cast, an interest in the environment (specifically mountains and mountain climbing). I enjoyed it.
It was originally published by Nighshade in 2011, so if it interests you, online is the best way to find it. Nightshade published the sequel, The Tainted City, as well, but then all that shit that was Nightshade came up, and Schafer decided to self publish the third book, The Labyrinth of Flame, after a successful kickstarter. You will definitely need to buy the third online, if you do. As an aside for those of you who like editions to match, Schafer designed the third to look like Nighshade’s previous editions, so together, all three look quite nice.
Darwyn Cooke’s Parker Adaptions: The Hunter, The Outfit, The Score, and Slayground
I read all four of Cooke’s adaptions of four of Richard Stark’s Parker novels over the last month. They’re a quick read, beautiful illustrated and retold, with much, much more work going into each of them than it took for me to read.
The novels follow Parker, a career criminal in the fifties and sixties, who is tough, violent, and who works jobs to finance his life of women and fine hotels. The first of them, the Hunter, was turned into a film called Point Blank in the 70s, I think, with Lee Marvin. Cooke’s adaptions are better than that film, more consistent, and darker, willing to allow Parker to be unpleasant, as he often is to women. All are beautifully illustrated, as I said, and told well, thought Slayground, the last of them, is a bit light on actual story and content. My favourite, I think, was the Score, about robbing an entire mining town. Anyow: beautiful, quite, diverting, and very noir. If you’re a fan of good comics, Cooke’s adaptions are for you.