Saturday, October 12, 2013

Musings of a savage detective

I'm currently reading Roberto Bolano's The Savage Detectives, which is a fictional account of the late author's own literary life experiences.  Bolano died a decade ago this year, but it wasn't until about four years back, with the publication of his masterpiece 2666, that I took notice of him, and the Chilean writer subsequently became my all-time favorite novelist (supplanting Herman Melville, no less).

Bolano spent most of his time as a novelist musing on his own experiences, much as aspiring writers are always told to "write what they know."  He considered himself first and foremost a poet, and it was in this mischievous form that he existed for the events depicted in Savage Detectives, the tenuous heart of a whole movement that never really happened although still accomplished its goal of being honest about itself, which was the whole point.

It's gotten me thinking about a number of things, both about my own experiences in literary communities and how I tend to write my own stories, if I indeed "write what I know."

As far as communities go, I've never quite been a Bolano, but to a certain extent maybe I have, if not quite a charismatic center then certainly the enigmatic figure who drifts in and out of writing circles.  In college I was part of the poetry scene that coalesced around a couple of acquaintances who stumbled into some of the same classes together, which eventually led to the short-lived Hemlock literary journal.  Since I wasn't part of the inner circle of that group, more like the narrator of the opening section of Savage Detectives, I would never be able to give a truly definitive account of those days, but it's still nice to look back on.

The Hemlock experience was something I enjoyed quite a bit, which led to the abortive Dead Letter Quarterly several years later, the product of acquaintances from a comic book site I wrote at for awhile, which led to the more successful Project Mayhem anthology I put together for my budding Mouldwarp Press imprint (if you're interested, you can still consider contributing to a follow-up).

In recent days the idea of a writing community has shifted to blogging buddies such as yourself and even former coworkers.

Part of what's made this such a roundabout experience for me is that I spent all my budding years as a writer not actually writing.  In middle and high school, I developed my tools for world-building rather than writing, I guess believing that knowing a story is the first stage to writing it.  By the time I started writing stories in earnest it took my some time to integrate the world-building, but at least gave me time to work on my storytelling.  I knew I was a writer before I did any serious writing, which is perhaps why I exist much as Bolano did, as a literary romantic, and don't necessarily view it the same way that others of my ilk tend to, as something they do rather than something they are.  I tend to shout at the opposition like Bolano, and this can sometimes make it hard to find kindred souls (people don't generally liked to be shouted at for some reason), whether or not they exist at all.

As far as writing trends go, I'm different from Bolano in that I don't tend toward extrapolations of my own experiences in the same literal sense so much as drawing from elements.  For Modern Ark I imposed my relationship with my sister on a vampire story.  In the current Pangaea plans, I've been modifying characters to be a bit more like Bolano, although the framework remains very much my own.  All my stories are reflections from my perspective and aims for literature.  Where Bolano tended to look at the world from an intimate vantage point, I lean toward expansive, which opens for more fantastical opportunities, although he's a writer who shares my need to represent myself in a more obvious way (once you know it's there) than I find in others, although certainly in some like Melville it's clearly there and adds layers of depth to the storytelling and for me defines what being a true writer is all about.


  1. Not familiar with him. Does his work read poetically?
    Although I wrote some, I was never involved in any groups when I was younger. Leading one would've been out of the question.
    Ironic how that changed...

    1. Poetically in the sense that his words certainly flow readily, a constant stream of thought.

      What you did was discover how you were best suited for such a role.

  2. Some Chilean guy hardly anyone's heard of would be your literary hero.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...