The OF Blog: Ouch!

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Here I was, thinking that the recent FBS tournament matchups were tough. Then I happened to find out about this Tournament of Books matchup. Roberto Bolaño's most excellent (and posthumous) work, The Savage Detectives, versus Junot Díaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Might as well asked me if I wanted my testicles or my voicebox removed.

Two outstanding books by two Latino writers, each with its own rhythm and sense of place, each with wildly different narrators and themes, yet with a similarly high prose and storytelling quality to each of them. Two books that I would have had on my Best of 2007 shortlist for certain if it weren't for two little factors (I read Bolaño's work in Spanish back in 2004; I didn't read Díaz's book until after I had crafted my shortlist). Two stories that deserve a wider genre presence than what they are getting. Because after all, it's a fucking shame sometimes that so many people's reading preferences fall so neatly in line with genre marketing categories. What I'd give for those who want to go ahead and proclaim the umpteenth volume of a multivolume work or the "edgy urban" whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it debut or whatnot to just give either/both of these books a chance. I reviewed the Díaz back in January and I believe you can search the blog archives for that. The Bolaño I'd sum up inadequately (it's been a couple of years and I don't know what choices the English translator(s) made with the rather unconventional narrative style that Bolaño used to great effect in the Spanish-language original) as being a literal and metaphorical trip for identity and the seeking out of what was lost to both time and place.

So while my own vote would change based on my current mood, I still want to urge people to at least consider reading/reviewing these excellent books that aren't garden-variety strictly-genre books. If you have read/reviewed either one and are reading this, I'd also love a link to it posted in the Comments section, if you don't mind. After all, I am still all about pimping the best literature.

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