Something wholly positive that can be said about the posthumous 2666 is that it's not summarizable in plot or theme -- its dimensions suggest the entirety of life. Seriously! And so all we can really think to do is offer a telling quotation: ". . . history, which is a simple whore, has no decisive moments but is a proliferation of instants, brief interludes that vie with one another in monstrousness."
Another thing that can be said: this monstrous book -- structured in five parts -- offers plentiful instructions about how to read its proliferation of instants. (Plot summary available here)
Something semi-critical that can be said is that, at times, especially early on (first 275 of 894 pages), we sometimes impatiently derided this monster as a hybrid of Cormac McCarthy and Raymond Chandler -- a brutal borderlands high-lit mystery that suggested more than it ever actually signified. But then came a speech by a former Black Panther and a black New Yorker, reluctant sportswriter named Oscar Fate and things took off, especially once the book offered multitudinous murders; a prodigiously pissing, iconoclastic Penitent; and the massive German, Klaus, in a Mexican prison.
We admit to maybe skimming a dozen or so gratuitous descriptions of murdered women, and we weren't so high on the 2666 hog through the end of the fourth part. But then the fifth part, mainly set in Europe during and after WWII Germany, is more than worth it. Like reaching the Rockies and the West after driving across the plains en route from New Jersey to California -- all the better because you'd made it that far.
At one point, maybe the climax of a story without traditional narrative arc, 2666 states that the literary masterpiece is like a crucified Jesus -- in 2666, a Romanian general with a foot-long schlong is crucified, by the way -- that needs the thieves on either side to conceal it. The masterpiece is also compared to a lake in a forest of minor novels.
You could discuss this book endlessly, or never say a word and just sit there in respectful speechlessness. It's more an experience than an entertainment. A highwater mark for ambition, authority, oomph, audacity, execution. And at the end, there's a reverberating sense that it needs to be read again in the totally vain hope that all the clattering echoes cohere into an a-ha moment of thematic clarity. The structure requires the reader to make associative diagrams (like the charts in the second part), something that's essential to this one's "fun." Total authority in the prose ensures that such associative thinking never just seems like an exercise in making "castles in the air" -- ie, you trust the author knows what he's doing because the prose is so strong and the story so seemingly carefully unfurled. A proliferation of images circle around and conceal and suggest the masterpiece's center -- all now living will all be long forgotten by 2666? (Spoiler warning: what good is posterity when all you're remembered for is Neapolitan-flavored ice cream!)
Something that can also be said is that there's no cookie-cutter poignancy or precious, luminous prose. The opposite of everything talked about in writing workshops is on display. Characters are unforgettable, but this is not an investigation of character. This one isn't concerned about the so-called "emotional angle," either: not a humid eye in the house. Instead, five pairs of cat's eyes rise in the dark, lacking "spatiotemporal coherence," during a feverish, clandestine buggery session.
And another thing: something that's negatively affected our reading lately has been the abyss between the blurbs on the back of books and our estimation of the words on the pages. The blurbs on the back of 2666 are uberlaudatory, but this was nevertheless the first new book we've read in a while where our blurb-induced expectations were matched and maybe even exceeded. Compared to the blurbs (even the one by the inimitable Vinnie Wilhelm on the cover of our advanced reading copy), our final sense of the book is a distinct but equivalent awe.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/2666.html]
[Endnote: Eyeshot, historically, has related more textual impressions of music than of books, which is a little odd for a semi-literary site, right? Recently, we've been thinking it's time to share the resin of our recent reading. Why? Because we're maybe a little fed up with book reviews that oversummarize plot and underprovide formal and thematic sensations experienced while reading. In the next few weeks (and forever after, we hope), short, impressionistic reviews ("reviews" isn't really the right word -- more like "the sense/thought resonance of our reading") will appear in this space for collection in our newly established Readerly Resonance Chamber. We won't just write about new books, either. You'll see. Anyway! Please excuse this endnote.]
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