I’ve been reading Between Parentheses, Bolano’s book of essays and nonfiction pieces. Bolano is definitely a critic in the Walter Pater mode: just as, say, Pater’s famous essay on the Mona Lisa could easily be read as a Baudelaire-influenced prose poem, Bolano’s reviews are not so much “critiques” as a kind of aesthetic response of their own.
Criticism as Art. Or: Art messily spawning more Art.
One of my favorite pieces is his review of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. (Evidently, McCarthy and James Ellroy were the two American writers Bolano respected most. Both of them haunt the margins of 2666. And McCarthy and Bolano have another similarity too: they’re both Dionysian though they wear the mask of Apollo.)
Here’s the last part of the review:
Blood Meridian is a novel about place, about the landscape of Texas and Chihuahua and Sonora; a kind of anti-pastoral novel in which the landscape looms in its leading role, imposingly—truly the new world, silent and paradigmatic and hideous, with room for everything except human beings. It could be said that the landscape of Blood Meridian is a landscape out of de Sade, a thirsty and indifferent landscape ruled by strange laws involving pain and anesthesia, the laws by which time often manifests itself…