Unfinished Friday – Bolaño’s 2666

The idea of the “Unfinished Friday” meme is to inform readers about books you did not finish, and let them know why.

If you peruse any menu at a top-rated restaurant, you will see entres like stuffed leg of guinea hen with duck liver and oysters, quail eggs with crispy bone marrow, rabbit brain soup, cod cheeks, and basically, all kinds of stuff I HAVE NO DESIRE TO EAT.

Give me a good grilled cheese sandwich and vanilla shake, or maybe a 4-cheese pizza (a.k.a. open-faced grilled cheese sandwich) and diet coke with lemons or a glass of cabernet, and I’m happy.

So why did I pick up this equivalent of rabbit brain soup with duck liver?

Time Magazine called Bolaño’s 2666 “The Best Book of 2008” claiming it was “a masterpiece, the electrifying literary event of the year.” The 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction was posthumously awarded to Roberto Bolaño for 2666. It was short-listed for the Best Translated Book Award. Powell’s recommends it as “The finest novel of our young century … an epic masterpiece that solidifies Bolaño’s reputation as a literary genius. It’s an entire world unto itself, one — not unlike our own — filled with horror, neglect, depravity, brilliance, and beauty.”

Well, I tried. It’s 898 pages, divided into five parts. As Time Magazine points out about Bolaño:

“He’s addicted to unsolved mysteries and seemingly extraneous details that actually do turn out to be extraneous, and he loves trotting out characters — indelible thumbnail sketches — whom we will never encounter a second time. If three people spend the night at a hotel, you can count on Bolaño to stop the story cold for 10 pages while he describes each of their dreams.”

Others may call all that brilliant, I call it annoying. I made it through Part I only. Bring on the grilled cheese.

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19 Responses to Unfinished Friday – Bolaño’s 2666

  1. Staci says:

    I am loving this feature!! The cover of this one is enough for me not to pick it up!!! I’m with you- bring on the grilled cheese!

  2. JoAnn says:

    I’m pretty much a grilled cheese girl, too, but would like to try the rabbit brain soup with duck liver. Who knows… my taste may have grown a little more ‘adventurous’ since the last time my palate was tested! Even if I hate it and can’t finish it, It’ll give me something to talk about for quite a while (I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of One Hundred Years of Solitude!).

  3. bermudaonion says:

    You are so funny! I don’t think this book appeals to me, especially after reading that you couldn’t finish it. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Steph says:

    Well, claire of kiss a cloud and I were the ones co-leading this read-along, and I failed miserably at it. Pretty much everyone else involved loved the book, but I increasingly fretted over picking it up, and ultimately could not push myself to read any further halfway through Part 4. I think I actually enjoyed Part 1 the most, but others said they felt the book kept building and getting better. I wish I had felt the same, but this just didn’t speak to me. I would happily eat grilled cheese in lieu of eating this (or really, in lieu of many things)!

  5. Bookjourney says:

    LOL…. love this post!

  6. Alyce says:

    I’ve been way too intimidated by this book to give it a try. But then I’ve said that about other books and been wrong, so who knows. This week my husband (who has a degree in English) asked if I wanted to do a book read-a-long and discussion with him, because he wants to be more involved with my hobby, which I thought was great. The book he chose for our first read is Ulysses by James Joyce. Neither of us has read it before. Cliff Notes here I come!

    I’m using the online graphic novel to help me understand the first section, but after that I’m curious to see what my level of comprehension is. 🙂 We’re going to be reading one section of Ulysses each week, so in about four months or so I should be able to render an opinion on the book.

  7. Sandy says:

    I saw veal cheeks once on a menu, and I just had to ask the waiter if it, indeed, was a young cow’s cheeks, or was it a term for something else. I didn’t know if I was humored or disgusted. Anyway I digress. In my dreams I would read something like this. Reality is, I probably won’t. I don’t think many people would judge you for stopping…

  8. Kimberly says:

    Hmmm “horror, neglect, depravity” sounds like rabbit brain soup with duck liver to me too. This book sounds wordy and long-winded, which isn’t my style either. Onto the next book!

  9. Meg says:

    Almost 900 pages?! Urg — that makes my stomach turn just thinking about it! I’m sure I would share your thoughts on this one and, while I enjoy literary fiction, sometimes I just want the equivalent of a Hershey’s chocolate bar to while the evening away. Definitely won’t be grabbing 2666! And major kudos to you for doing as well as you did — and even attempting it!

  10. JoV says:

    Good for you! say it as it is !!

  11. Tina says:

    thanks for pointing out this meme. One thing I’ve learned in the last year plus of blogging and reviewing, is that there are too many good books to be read to spend my time trying to get through a book that just isn’t doing it for me. There are always other readers who will love it.

    BTW…grilled cheese and tomato soup are right up there with mac and cheese, and chocolate milkshakes.

  12. Jenners says:

    I love how the Game On diet is influencing your reviews … or is that just my imagination in the beginning part?

    And I’m a grilled cheese reader by nature, I’ve found. I really have to push myself to try a book that I suspect might be goose liver sometimes.

  13. Margot says:

    898 pages would be enough for me. I wouldn’t even start it. That thing must have been extremely heavy. That could be a killer, especially if you fell asleep while reading it and you were in a prone position. Another humorous post that I loved.

  14. booksplease says:

    Love this post.
    Having just read “Drood” which was full of extraneous detail I can’t face another long book like that for a while any more than I would consider eating rabbit brain soup.

  15. Michele says:

    LOL – love your description. I’ve been mulling over giving this one a try, but I recently had a similar experience to you with Byatt’s The Children’s Book so I’m loathe to jump into another bad reading experience. Grrrr.

  16. softdrink says:

    I’m not a very adventurous eater, either. I’m trusting you that Ulysses won’t turn out to be mutton stew.

  17. Richard says:

    I don’t blame you for quitting a book you weren’t enjoying, Jill, but I find it hysterical that you had the patience for K Lav and the Sookie Stackhouse series but not for Bolaño. Tell me it’s not true! Just to add to what Steph said up above, 2666 suffered a split decision from its readalong co-hosts Claire and Steph (Claire loved it, but Steph abandoned it) while most of the others of us in the group really loved the work–many saying it was one of the highlights of our respective reading years. One of the most interesting reactions, though, came from a blogger named Jackie, who gave the individual parts mostly poor and lukewarm ratings before deciding that the novel was a five-star book at the end–i.e. much more highly rated by her than any of the individual five parts. I’ve never seen a turnaround like that before, but I guess 2666 affects people in profoundly different ways!

  18. Marie says:

    I wanted to badly to like this book but I gave up on it, too. It was just so boring. I really think it was the most overrated book of last year. dull, dull, dull!

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