Fatigue, Mirrors, Inside/Outside, and a Theory
It’s been quiet around here lately, huh? I’ve got a bunch of things going on and, like many whose posts and comments I’ve read, have grown weary of the part about the crimes, so it’s been hard to get motivated to post. Even tonight, I don’t have it in me to write something obsessive or even particularly coherent. But I did want to make a couple of quick notes.
Bolaño is clearly doing something with the congresswoman and Norton. Both women wind up staying in a hotel room in Santa Teresa with one mirror by the door and another on the wall at the other end of the room. It seems likely (since this was a distinguishing characteristic of the room for Norton) that it’s the same room. And both — Norton in a dream — spend time trying to see themselves reflected in the two mirrors. Both are women who’ve had what vanilla folk like myself consider fairly racy sexcapades, and it seems reasonable (if not entirely charitable to Norton) to suggest that they’ve done so at times for personal, professional gain. Norton is associated in several places with the medusa, and the congresswoman describes the consumption of porn at the narcoranchos on page 628 in terms that bring medusa to mind. Norton furiously takes notes in her dream as the congresswoman establishes a detailed dossier on her missing friend.
It is Kessler who speaks, way back on page 267, about people living outside of society and how they’re perceived as expendable. He speaks of words used to avoid rather than to reveal, and he says that the crimes have different signatures and that everybody in Santa Teresa is outside of society. Kessler too is an outsider, of course, as is made all the more apparent by the pomp that surrounds his visit (the conversation described earlier in the book seems to be a follow-up visit a few years after the visit we’re told of late in the book). In my last post of any substance, I noted a number of instances of contrast between being inside and being outside. On page 609, the congresswoman bangs on the topic some more:
You think that from the inside you might change some things for the better. First you work from the outside, then you think that if you were inside the real possibiliteis for change would be greater. You think that inside, at least, you’ll have more freedom to act. Not true. There are things that can’t be changed from outside or inside. But here comes the funniest part. The really unbelievable part of the story (the sad story of Mexico or Latin America, it makes no difference). The part you can’t believe. When you make mistakes from inside, the mistakes stop mattering. Mistakes stop being mistakes. Making a mistake, butting your head against he wall, becomes a political virtue, a political tactic, gives you political presence, gets you media attention.
Here at the end of this part of the book, we have the congresswoman, who has become the ultimate insider, tracking one murder while Kessler, the ultimate gringo outsider, is brought in to provide support for the investigation. It’s an interesting contrast, if not one I can really do justice to.
And finally, a theory. It’s not at all clear to me how tidy the end of the section is supposed to be. The parts about Kelly Parker are drawn out and seem important by virtue of word count, but they also seem sort of patched in and just about random. Why all this detail about one case all of a sudden (and why the one about a woman who changed her name to a very American-sounding name?)? Is it gesturing toward a source for a lot of the crimes? I can’t help wondering if the implication isn’t that a lot of the women being found dead are women Kelly has hired as prostitutes for her parties, and that there really is a big central case to blow wide open if only the police would do some police-work. If so, I fear that it’s obvious and I’m coming across as a moron for proposing it as some ground-breaking theory.
Anyway, next week: Archimboldi.