Canelli asked for a post about why Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 should be the next book. Here it is.
First, let’s recall the rules I forced on this whole endeavor last year.
- There is only one official book for Infinite Winter. (Read whatever you want at the same time, but only one book is official.)
- The book has got to be long. It’s got to have the page length to sustain a sustained reading effort.
- The book has to be notable. It’s got to be famous, infamous, banned, have a reputation for being challenging, whatever.
- Whoever proposes the book that’s picked is responsible for building a reading schedule for that book.
- The reading schedule starts on the first day of winter and ends on the last day of winter.
- The reading schedule doesn’t require more than 70 pages of reading a week.
According to Amazon, the book is 912 pages long. That’s a little more than Gravity’s Rainbow and about 170 less than Infinite Jest. So that covers rule 2.
I first heard of this book after reading this article: “Things I Can Say About MFA Writing Programs Now That I No Longer Teach in One.” (You might remember that Canelli and I discussed this back in early 2015.)
If you aren’t a serious reader, don’t expect anyone to read what you write.
Without exception, my best students were the ones who read the hardest books I could assign and asked for more. One student, having finished his assigned books early, asked me to assign him three big novels for the period between semesters. Infinite Jest, 2666, and Gravity’s Rainbow, I told him, almost as a joke. He read all three and submitted an extra-credit essay, too. That guy was the Real Deal.
Conversely, I’ve had students ask if I could assign shorter books, or—without a trace of embarrassment—say they weren’t into “the classics” as if “the classics” was some single, aesthetically consistent genre. Students who claimed to enjoy “all sorts” of books were invariably the ones with the most limited taste. One student, upon reading The Great Gatsby (for the first time! Yes, a graduatestudent!), told me she preferred to read books “that don’t make me work so hard to understand the words.” I almost quit my job on the spot.
Infinite Jest, check. Gravity’s Rainbow, check. 2666–what’s this? Yeah, so this is how I first heard of this book, and I was intrigued from the beginning.
(Funny aside: last semester there was a young lady in my workshop who came straight up and said she didn’t like reading “hard” books. Oof, that was an awkward moment in class. Needless-to-say, her writing was, uh, terrible.)
So there you go: I’m suggesting 2666 as this Infinite Winter’s book because two and a half years ago some smarmy writing professor mentioned it in some random-ass article I read on accident. And, after I read the synopsis, I kept thinking, “Maybe I should read this book at some point.” Think of it, Canelli, we both finish Moby Dick as our 52nd book of the year and then immediately pivot into something like 2666. What could be better?!
Unless Canelli’s got a counterproposal. What is it, Canelli! Tell us! Challenge us!