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Last Evenings on Earth by Roberto Bolaño

August 9, 2011

If you’ve ever considered reading Roberto Bolaño but weren’t sure you wanted to tackle the epic darkness of 2666, you might start with the bite-size darkness of his short stories. His world is fairly homogenous from what I’ve read of it—any place you dive in will give you a similar impression, if not the exact story, of anywhere else: disenchanted rebels and literati, prostitutes and wayward souls, looming violence, drugs, semi-autobiographical references, random encounters, a fluid plot and a dreamlike haze hanging over all of it. He jumps from the mundane of everyday life to paranoid, surreal and frightening symbolism, to grand passages that advance in epic leaps that would make Marquez proud (even though his style is very different from Marquez’s).

Of the fourteen stories in this collection, I put stars in the table of contents next to “The Grub,” “Anne Moore’s Life,” and “Last Evenings on Earth” (in a discussion of the author, I once heard “Anne Moore’s Life” described as quintessential Bolaño, which is what prompted me to get this book). I won’t describe each story because they wouldn’t sound very good and you might not read them, which would be a shame. And the strength of these stories is not as much the plot as the intoxicating mood the author creates and recreates time and again.

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