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Two Good Things about Two Dead Authors

February 2, 2012

TO MARK THE SECOND ANNIVERSARY of J.D. Salinger’s death, The New Yorker has turned again to Lillian Ross, Salinger’s friend and colleague. Ross wrote some lovely remembrances on the occasion of Salinger’s death in 2010, and her latest is also worth reading:

He was his own man, and I always found him to be grateful for his own inventions, the books that made it financially possible for him to live as he wished. There was not a false note in what he said or did. It came unforgettably entwined with his original humor. He was incapable of duplicity.

From Ross’ piece, it’s a quick hop to “In the Labyrinth: A User’s Guide to Bolaño” by Giles Harvey. There has been a rush of material from Bolaño’s estate in the last few years, and Harvey provides a good guide for sorting it all out.

The job they did of sifting through his unpublished writings in the immediate aftermath of Bolaño’s death in 2003 can’t have been especially thorough, for every other week, it seems, they find themselves tripping over another stout stack of papers, which, on closer inspection, turns out to be a new thousand-page opus on pornography, obscure minor poets, and the end of the world. If you’re a Bolaño neophyte, this must look intimidating. Where to enter?

Harvey then lists his suggestions for where, and where not, to start with Bolaño.

Trade Paperbacks has already broken with his suggestion to “Avoid “2666” for as long as possible, and for heaven’s sake, don’t start with it.”  Find out what happened when we did.

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