Book Review: Roberto Bolaño, Antwerp; translated by Natasha Wimmer

I’m my own bewitchment. ~ Roberto Bolaño

Bolaño said “the only novel that doesn’t embarrass me is Antwerp.” This slim volume, best read in one sitting, exudes poetry and beauty even in its most brutal, ugly passages.

I can’t be pessimistic or optimistic, everything is determined by the beat of hope that manifests itself in what we call reality. ~ Roberto Bolaño

Classic Bolaño bluntness and themes steeped in stark realism and layered with a vague sense of unease; what just happened?

That’s the way it is, he said, a slight sense of failure that keeps growing stronger and the body gets used to it. You can’t escape the void, just as you can’t help crossing streets if you live in a city, with the added annoyance that sometimes the street is endlessly wide, the buildings look like warehouses out of gangster movies, and some people choose the worst moments to think about their mothers. ~ Roberto Bolaño

Book Review: Roberto Bolaño, between parentheses: Essays, Articles, and Speeches, 1998-2003; edited by Ignacio Echevarría; translated by Natasha Wimmer

Whores, perhaps, come closest in the exercise of their profession to the practice of literature. ~ Roberto Bolaño

Described by Ignacio Echevarría in the introduction as a “kind of fragmented autobiography”, this volume collects most of Bolaño’s newspaper columns and articles, speeches, and talks. The great majority of them contain Bolaño’s views on authors and literature, mostly other Latin American works, but not always. Many of them discuss Bolaño’s own philosophies on writing. Above all, Bolaño’s true poetic voice, elegant and spare while at the same time crude and relentless, shines in these short pieces.

While a valuable work for any Bolaño collection, as a whole this book felt disjointed. However, readers with the patience to comb through the sources or who know some of Bolaño’s biography will realize at the time of these writings his own life was also disjointed, riddled with health issues and uncertainty. Through it all Bolaño held onto his passion. Perhaps it’s fitting this posthumously published book parallels the end of Bolaño’s tumultuous life.

If you have patience enough to search, maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of what you’re looking for. And when you find it, you’ll probably be disappointed. It isn’t the devil. It isn’t the State. It isn’t a magical child. It’s the void. ~ Roberto Bolaño

Book Review: Ruth DeFries, The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis: A Biography of an Ingenious Species

Although history shows that ingenuity has brought humanity back from the brink of overshoot time and again, this history does not ensure the same will occur in the future. – Ruth DeFries

This is an excellent, well-written examination of the evolution of human beings from just another mammal high on the food chain, to the species that has wrought so many changes to the world it has become unrecognizable from its origins. Using a clever comparison of these fluctuations to a ratchet and a pivot, DeFries outlines the endless cycles of inventiveness humanity has exhibited over time in identifying solutions to problems that in turn create new problems to find solutions for. From well-known examples like the Irish Potato Famine and DDT to the decimation of the Rocky Mountain locust, this fascinating history takes readers on a journey from human beings as foragers to settlers and how we got to where we are today: mostly urban dwellers who have become largely detached from food production. A must read for anyone interested in food politics and knowing where, exactly, the food they eat comes from.

Book Review: Renee Wilkinson, Modern Homestead: Grow, Raise, Create

Wilkinson has made me obsessed with acquiring ducks rather than chickens for our little urban homestead. In addition to a great deal of information on raising backyard animals, Wilkinson also offers basic information on growing and preserving food. Delicious sounding recipes and some how-to instructions on DIY projects like chicken runs, worm bins, and bird & bee houses, reach for this book when you need information on making the most of your urban garden and landscape. Thanks for giving me this great guide, Cherie!