13 November 2011

What happened in Symphony Space, Nov. 2010

Back in November 2010, a live reading of Bolaño's stories was staged in New York. The program was called "Selected Shorts: Roberto Bolano and the Writers He Admired". The event was described as:

An evening of stories by the late Chilean master (The Savage Detectives, 2666) and writers who inspired him, including pieces by Javier Marías, Nicanor Parra, and Jorge Luis Borges. Bolaño is known for a particular noirish, atmospheric, dangerous, edgy, cool, engrossing style that immediately draws you in to a world of writers, policemen, prostitutes, politicians, militants, lovers and dreamers. Bolaño won the National Book Critics Circle Award for 2666. Performers include Michael Stuhlbarg (Boardwalk Empire and A Serious Man), Felix Solis, Ivan Hernandez (the Public Theater's concert staging of Paul Simon's The Capeman) and Charles Keating.

How did the evening go, one may ask. There was, amazingly, a great recap of the show.

It is possible to see the imprint of Bolaño most beloved writers on his novels and stories. The elements of his influence were certainly put to best display on Wednesday. Both Bolaño’s elements of mystery and comedy were visible in the poem and two stories that were chosen for the evening. In Marías’ “On the Honeymoon,” the narrator describes watching a woman walking down the street “adjusting the elastic on a recalcitrant pair of panties.” When later, she gestures up toward the balcony where he is sitting and screams, “You’re mine, or I’ll kill you!” it is easy to recall scenes from his oeuvre. I thought of the three academics in the first section of 2666, who, at first trivially arguing in a taxicab, end up assaulting their driver. We get a sense that, at any moment, the comic banal can descend into violence. In his story, Marías has created a world that is chilling and mesmerizing. The reader is made squirmishly uncomfortable, and yet feels completely at ease. Bolaño’s humorous meditations on writers and literature within his novels was also evidenced in the Parra’s poem “Something Like That,” when the speaker muses: “The true problem of philosophy is who does the dishes.” And in Borges’s “The Shape of the Sword,” a story of an Irishman’s betrayal by a friend who turns out to be the narrator himself, we see where Bolaño found his playfulness with form.

Read the full account here.

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