. . . 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.

22 February 2010

Review Written on Valentine's Day 2010

The following is my the review of 2666 written on Valentine's Day, 2010, after finishing the novel for the first time.

HEADLINE: I do not recommend that you read the best novel that I have read in the last 20 years.

Yes, 2666 is easily the best novel that I have read in the last 20 years, perhaps longer. No, I do not recommend it to you or anyone else.

Nonetheless, in the event you are unfortunately tempted, I would like to be helpful. Please answer the 20 questions in the following questionnaire with a simple “yes” or “no.” You may answer with a complicated “yes” or “no” if you wish, but in that case please capitalize the first letters of “Yes” or “No.” It would be helpful if you could answer candidly without fear of someone attaching value judgments to your responses. No one need see your answers.

1. Are you unhappy when you encounter a “spoiler” that ruins a great ending to a novel that you are reading?

2. Have you ever before consecutively read five novels by the same author?

3. Is entertainment the most important benefit you derive from reading novels?

4. When you do not understand the meaning of a text in a novel, do you become either impatient or unhappy with the author or both?

5. Does religious iconography of any sort add a dimension to your life that you value?

6. Have you ever reread a novel in its entirety immediately upon completing it the first time, thus magically transforming an 893-page novel, for example, into a 1,786-page one?

7. Does a book, any book, have some separate, objective existence outside the minds of its readers?

8. Immediately after she is beaten to death, would you expect an Indian woman's skin to be orange?

9. Are you sick of novels in which Nazi Germany and World War II are major subjects?

10. Are you proud of the fact that you have read the novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville? (You may answer “yes” or “Yes” even if you have not read Moby Dick as long as you have read The Trial by Franz Kafka. If you have read neither, then I would propose that your response probably should be “no” or “No,” but it need not necessarily be. A response of “Yes” with a capital “Y” might make some sense in certain individual circumstances for example.)

11. Is the “Trendlenburg position” usefully employed in waterboarding?

12. Have you more than once claimed that you enjoyed reading The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens? (Obviously, whether or not you have read The Pickwick Papers or actually enjoyed it is totally irrelevant to your answer.)

13. Did the andesites in the mountains between the states of Chihuahua and Sonora in México and your hand originate at the same time? (You need not necessarily know that there is a country named México that abuts the southwestern border of the United States nor do you need to know the geographical location of its political subdivisions in order to provide a meaningful response. This is not a trick question in other words.)

14. Do you believe that God has especially blessed the United States of America? (If George Carlin immediately popped into your mind, please consider skipping this question or simply answer a different question. Otherwise, you might then be giving his answer and not your own. That would skew the results.)

15. Do you believe that at some point before our deaths, every single one of us will experience a period of physical torture?

16. Do you believe that human beings and rats are both God's creatures and therefore equally deserving of our respect?

17. Have you ever considered killing another human being to the point that you were considering the various practical means available to do it?

18. Do you believe that the size of the human population of this planet has currently reached a level at which humankind must rationally be considered an undesirable infestation of this planet? (If you do not live on planet Earth, please respond as if you did.)

19. Are you willing to devote so much time, effort, and concentration to a novel that your friends or family consider you to be “absent” or “distant” for an extended part of every day for a period of one month?

20. Are you homosexual?

If the number of your “yes” answers exceeds the number of your “no” answers, you should clearly avoid reading this novel, although you are free to pretend that you have. If the number of your “no” answers exceeds the number of your “yes” answers, you should clearly not read this novel and neither should you pretend that you have.

If the number of your “yes” answers is precisely equal to the number of your “no” answers—in order to check yourself on this, make sure that the number of “yes” answers and the number of “no” answers are exactly ten each—then you should ask yourself why you wasted your time answering these absurd questions in the first place. However, as a sort of tie-breaker, you may proceed to continue to add questions of your own to the twenty listed ones until such time as you concurrently have an even number of questions and a preponderance of “yes” or “no” answers. In that event and without regard to the number of “yes” or “no” answers, you can read the novel without fear of more psychological damage than you have already sustained in life to this point.

If all of your “Yes” and “No” answers, regardless of the number of each, begin with capital letters, then go ahead and read this novel if you must, but don't blame me for any untoward consequences.

If you are curious about the psychological damage that I myself have sustained, you may read my blog entry entitled Libertad.

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