. . . but they have no interest in real combat, when the great masters struggle against that something, that something that terrifies us all, that something that cows us and spurs us on, amid blood and mortal wounds and stench.

01 February 2010

The Micro Approach, Not the Macro

About Amalfitano later. . .

But we certainly now have some feel for why it appeared that Amalfitano's nerves were shot and he damned near drowned in that swimming pool, don't we?

This is a novel that is immensely difficult to discuss productively in a forum like this. It reminds me of the run we made at [book:The Book of Laughter and Forgetting|240976] more than ten years ago. Nonetheless, it has been an enjoyable discussion to read up to this point.

The development of the discussion has been instructive, I think. Notice that everyone has abandoned the effort of pawing through reviews and interviews and essays looking for help in discerning the meaning of it all—the big picture of the pastiche of fruit that reveals a logical portrait. I honestly do not believe that the similarity of the names Archimboldi and Archimboldo has any more importance than the fact that Amalfitano shares a last name with Joey, the former utility infielder and manager of the Chicago Cubs.

I suspect that it February when folks have discussed the big meaning of the title, that trivia question posted at No. 110 above by Caeliban will be about as cogent an explanation as any.

Notice that when readers grapple with the question of the interlocking themes, the question of the overall meaning of it all, the discussion is sterile. However, when readers actually get down to a piece of text and talk about their reaction to it, the discussion lights up. The devil that hath the power to assuming pleasing shapes is in the detail. And there is a delightfully massive amount of detail.

*Capitu, I thought your note at No. 86 about the experience of reading Suttree was great wherein you say, I felt I had to abandon myself into the endless narration, letting the story take me anywhere it went. It is as if I just watched from a window the life passing outside. . . . But then you write somewhat wistfully concerning the fruit man metaphor, but if I let myself be carried along, with some patience, I will hopefully “see” the full figure. Why are you so hopeful about that? What is so important to you about seeing the full figure? I would venture to guess that you never saw the full fruit man figure concealed in Suttree.

__________, your notes have been fantastic once you lost interest in researching the commentators and turned your attention to the text itself. Yours at No. 53 concerning the word count, for example, was good. But then you addressed yourself to the cab driver episode at No. 120, and my heart leaped. That note with the questions you posed at the end was one of the most courageous notes I have seen posted hereabouts for a long time. You had stopped being a passive reader.

Bolañno demands an active reader--the reader as envisioned by Cortázar. (See page 224.) In other words, what the reader himself brings to this book is every bit as important, perhaps more important, than what the author brings to the book. This line of thought would demand that you answer the questions that you posed in No. 120, ___________. Perhaps you have. But who the hell is going to post their answers to those questions thoughtfully in a somewhat public forum such as this? Yet that is the way to tackle this book, and that is why it is so difficult a book to discuss.

Nonetheless, later I will try to practice what I preach and to describe my own idiosyncratic reactions to certain passages—the text--in the hope that somebody else will describe theirs. Therein I think would lie the real fun.

This is a book to be approached in micro fashion, not macro fashion. Anybody who undertakes the effort to construct some grandiose theory of the overall meaning of this book—a “reading” of this book as Pelletier uses the term—will come to the same end as the critics did.

So there you go, __________. February will tell the tale.

*Capitu is a fictional character in Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis, a classic Brazilian novel.

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