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Vampires

As I write this, I have the strangest notion that somebody has beat me to it, that somebody else has mentioned vampirism with respect to 2666, but if so, I can’t find the reference. If I’m inadvertently ripping you off, please speak up and take appropriate credit in the comments. Maybe I just have the Infinite Summer read of Dracula still on the brain.

The things I’ve noticed (probably not an exhaustive list; I found these in a quick skim after reading this part a week ago):

  • There’s the obvious draining of life force from industrious women.
  • The man held in connection with the crimes is a tall, pale man. Even though he’s locked up, the crimes mysteriously continue. He’s obviously sneaking out at night as a bat.
  • In a bit of mischief running parallel to the murders, we have an elusive sacraphobic breaking idols (Dracula hates a cross, don’t you know?).
  • The Penitent pees in prodigious amounts. Vampires drink lots of blood. Vampire bats, which can consume half their weight in blood within a 20-minute feeding, begin to pee within a couple of minutes of feeding. One assumes they pee in impressive volume.
  • Inmates at the mental hospital are made nervous by the wind. I’m reminded of the storm that preceded Dracula’s arrival to England and his later association with a mental hospital in Stoker’s novel.
  • The director of the asylum has small, sharp, white teeth.
  • The filmmaker Rodriguez, probably best known for his vampire film From Dusk till Dawn, is featured in the prior section of the book, with a credit on what seems to be a snuff film oddly premonitory (or emblematic) of the killings in Santa Teresa.
  • One victim has a stake driven through her. Usually we think of this as the vampire’s fate, but then, vampires spread the love to others who must also be staked.
  • The left hand of one victim rests on some guaco leaves, which are supposed to be good for mosquito bites. Mosquitos are another blood sucker.

I’m not saying this is a vampire novel, or a vampiric section of the novel. The bits about the pee in particular are almost certainly a stretch. Still, there are some pretty evocative images and circumstances that a credulous reader like me can find a way to tie together in a post about vampires. Boo!

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  1. Oregon Michael
    March 9, 2010 at 2:22 am

    Qué fuerte! That’s incredible. I am very glad you pointed all this out, as none of it had occurred to me. I can definitely imagine Bolaño using the idea of vampires to embody the presence of evil in this desert town. I’m also glad you made the connection to the Penitent, and I wonder about those prodigious quantities of pee. They keep saying “huge bladder” and so I did a search and found that the Gila monster (lizard) has just such a bladder. http://researchstories.asu.edu/2008/01/big_bladder_key_to_desert_surv.html

    Apparently it’s native to the Sonoran Desert, which makes sense considering the text from the book when Pedro Negrete confiscates Lalo Cura from Pedro Rengifo’s ranch:

    p. 399 “Shortly after they left the ranch they passed an enormous black stone. On the stone Lalo thought he saw a Gila monster, motionless, staring into the endless west.” Y después, “When Lalo Cura looked at the black stone again in the rearview mirror, the Gila monster was gone.”

    I won’t pretend I see a link here, but your post got me thinking!

  2. March 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

    Ooh, thanks for the gila monster tidbit. Like you, I don’t know that there’s really any formal symbol system at work here, but these link-like things are interesting to contemplate.

  3. Maria Bustillos
    March 9, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Ha! It was I who mentioned vampires, in this post, in connection with the shadowlessness of Latin American intellectuals!

    I loved your remarks here, Daryl, and I think there is a great deal in them. I would add that rape is itself a kind of vampire-crime. When you feed off someone else for the cravings of your own flesh alone.

    • March 9, 2010 at 11:29 am

      Eureka! I knew I had seen a reference to vampires somewhere, but I thought it had been a little more recently. Thanks for speaking up. Oddly, now that you’ve got me thinking again about the critics and vampires, it occurs to me that the sort of bumbling way in which the critics go about their trade and seek Archimboldi all over Europe and into Mexico may be a little reminiscent of the way in which the doddering Van Helsing and his pals — several of them involved in something of a love polygon around the woman in their midst — seek Dracula all over England and into Transylvania. That Stoker was writing an allegory at least in part pertaining to the landlord system in Ireland, and its exploitation of poor working folk, resonates with Bolaño’s writing about the unwritten-about, those factory workers on the margins in 2666.

  4. Maria Bustillos
    March 9, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    That is interesting, too. There’s a lot of feeding-off-others in this book, one way and another.

    (Are you working, as I am, on the assumption that the guy being held is Archimboldi?)

    • March 9, 2010 at 6:11 pm

      Maria, I read the book about a year ago and so can’t comment either way re your query without confirming or disconfirming your working theory. 🙂

  5. Todd Murry
    March 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

    Interesting. The vampire idea had crossed my mind, but in a less explicit way, and I definitely hadn’t noticed most of the thing on your lest. As Randy Jackson says “good lookin’ out.”

    My take on the vampire deal is that it fits into an axploitation of the link between ancient mesoamerican imagery and diencephalonic (mid-brain, reptile brain) horror. The Aztecs (and Myans for that matter) had vampire legends, no doubt in part to the presence of the bats, and the Aztec god of the underworld and Myan god of caves both had features we associate with vampires (big teeth, rodent nose, skull-like face). I don’t know when the Chupacabra first showed up, but this is a modern penetrable of the same stuff.

    Anywho, since the scene with the relation of the dream of the (dark, vaguely familiar) Aztec lake, I’ve been convinced that the key to this novel is that image and having watched Twin Peaks.

    Short version – Mexico considers the Aztec their beginning (the coat of arms is a flag with the sign from the gods associated with the formation of Tenochtitlan, over which the Spaniards built Mexico City. The Aztec civilization thrived, and believed that human sacrifice drove the “progress.” There is a tale of the re-consecrating of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan where (supposedly) 80,000 + people were sacrificed over a long weekend (likely a lot less).

    So, these images really encourage a connection to the murders (sacrifice) of the women, and the idea of progress, that in this place where the membrane between the real and the unconscious/existential horror is thin (really pointed out by the journey, as if to the edge of the world, of the critics in the first part), that the “old gods” still have sway, and demand their sacrifices.

    I probably shouldn’t talk too much about the Twin Peaks connection yet (I’m on my way out of the Part About the Crimes, and it might be Spoilery, but suffice it to say: think about the Killer Bob concept and how violent the men are here, and the fact that the crimes exist in a state of possibly connected/possibly unrelated, then remember the prisoner’s description and song from the end of Fate’s part – is the “giant a spirit? Is he possessed?

  6. Todd Murry
    March 9, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    I wish I had proofread that better for typos. “things in your list.” “”exploitation” “penetrance of the same stuff.” Blargh. I hit submit without thinking.

  7. March 14, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    I hadn’t noticed this, Daryl, but now see vampiric and parasitic in almost everything.This is why I dig group reads.
    Maria’s point about those feeding off others made me wish I had a searchable version of the text for the time “remora” appears. I thought as I read it about the critics and about Infinite Jest and the clinical depression that was just a scavenging hanger-on of the real gut-wrenching depression of suicide.

  1. April 11, 2010 at 8:54 pm

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