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Food and the End of the Road

Several times in 2666, we see strange, somehow disjunctive scenes that form themselves around food. Early on, we have Morini reading an old cookbook (which Maria wrote about). This takes place alongside a discussion of catch phrases and jokes emblazoned on mugs, and how the man who used to work at the mug place was saddened by a change in the composition of the phrases.

Later, we have Barry Seaman giving his lecture partially about food while pushing his barbecue cookbook. How much profundity there is in Seaman’s lecture is up for debate (some seem to read Seaman straight; others take him to be something of a clown), but there is, at any rate, what seems to be an attempt to link profundity with appetite (or with satisfaction thereof).

Next we have Kessler and his associate overheard in a diner during the part about Fate. This discussion of people at the edge of society is one I’ve come back to a number of times. I think the topic is central to much of what Bolaño is doing in 2666.

And finally, here at the end, we have Archimboldi talking the merits of ice cream vs. ices with a descendant of the man for whom a certain type of German ice cream (basically Neapolitan) is named. The treat’s namesake might have been remembered for any number of other accomplishments, but his name is remembered for its association with ice cream. Certain statements the descendant makes about his forebear one can imagine Bolaño hoping might one day be used in his own honor. It’s interesting to note that Morini’s encounter and his reading of recipe names occurred in the Italian Gardens and that Pückler of ice cream fame was considered something of an artist of a landscape gardner, and he spent some time in Italy.

I find myself wishing now that I had thought earlier in the book to make a more complete catalog of the consumption of food. In addition to these examples, there are of course Arcimboldo’s paintings that compose portraits out of pieces of fruit and other viands. There are a number of references to cannibalism and vampirism. Surely there are others, and perhaps someone with the stamina to read this thing yet again (twice in two years will tide me over for a while) will find more to the food motif (if it can be called that). I can’t say much more about it but that it stood out to me here at the end.

Ah, and the end. Anti-climactic, no? Maybe a little disappointing. We do confirm that Archimboldi makes his way to Santa Teresa, so there is at least a little closure.

I’ve enjoyed this group read but am glad it’s over. Onward!

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  1. Joan
    May 3, 2010 at 7:59 am

    Daryl I give you great credit for reading this twice in two years! While I know I will read IJ again, probably several times, I don’t believe I’ll be picking 2666 up again. I’m running behind and haven’t finished yet, but will push through to the end. Overall, yes, this last section is more engaging to me, but I think by this point I’m just so tired of it that I’m not appreciating it fully. I wonder how it would be to read the sections as separate books over time.

    I agree with you – onward. I’m looking forward to Moby Dick – the salt breezes wafting my way already seem refreshing!

  2. May 3, 2010 at 9:18 am

    Thanks for putting this together, Daryl. I agree that the experience of reading it was worthwhile, in its way, but I’m glad it’s over and (like Joan) had grown incredibly tired of it by the end.

    I’ll have my own post about the conclusion in a few hours, I think.

  3. May 3, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Joan, I wasn’t going to reread 2666 but, after IJ, ultimately couldn’t resist joining in. I hadn’t planned on engaging fully in the IJ read either. Seems I can’t resist the group read thing. I’m already reading Typee and a couple other of Melville’s shorter things in preparation for Moby Dick.

    Dan, I’ll look forward to your conclusion. Really have appreciated your perspective.

  4. May 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

    Great post, Daryl. I remember flagging stuff about food in the earlier parts of the novel (the roast outside of Santa Teresa, pulque, baconora, the restaurant Fate stops in) and I think you are right on that it’s worth investigating further. I’ve really enjoyed all of your posts here (even when I have commented I’ve read them all) and appreciated your work on the dreams.

    • May 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm

      Thanks, Matt. I’m suddenly remembering a scene with Lalo and cannibalism; that may be the pulque. I forgot to mention that these little food episodes sometimes seem to have something of Tarantino to them. The Royale with cheese and the Furst-Puckler, these strange little tangents about food that seem somehow real but also somehow surreal. Thanks for your kind comment here and your too-kind mention in your post at the mothership. I still owe you one more set of dreams, which I hope to dispatch tonight.

  5. May 4, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Thanks Daryl for doing all of this. It’s always fun to read along with a group. And, I always appreciate your insights (which are much more abstract and fun than my literal interpretation). I’m hoping to do a “final thoughts” post before the end of the week. I still can’t really decide how I feel about the book. I think I may be finally warming up to it. Although, no, I won’t be reading it again anytime soon. That said, however, I did consider reading The Part About the Critics, just to see if anything wraps around (like IJ–although not as literally)

    • May 4, 2010 at 9:45 pm

      Paul, your posts are universally outstanding. The summaries are so jam-packed with information, and they’ve proven helpful to me when I’ve read ahead and have wanted to remind myself of what’s happened when I’ve gone back later to write a post. There’s lots of value there. I think there probably is a lot of wrapping in the book, though as you say, I don’t think it’s quite so circular as IJ. It’d be very interesting to see a series of timelines laid out on top of one another, one for each part of the book. I do know there’s a lot of interaction or sort of referentiality among the dreams throughout the book, and I think the dreams might be a neat entry point for tying bits of the book together. I’m sure not up to it for now, though. 🙂

  6. Joan
    May 5, 2010 at 7:20 am

    I just finished last night and had some very similar thoughts – while it’s tempting to circle back around and read The Part About the Critics I just can’t do it. I did read the little afterward note about the edition and found it very interesting that the idea of the sections being separate or together was discussed, and especially the idea of if they were separate you could essentially string them together in various sequences.

    I’m still pondering my overall thoughts on it, but I did come around more in the end. The final section in general and the last 100 or so pages really worked for me, although it did seem a little rushed, as though after all that time he had to quickly tie up at least a few things.

  7. May 19, 2010 at 7:49 am

    I realize I’m a little bit late to the after-party, but I finally got my final post up, so I just wanted to circle back around and say how much I enjoyed reading 2666 with all of you. I wish I could participate in the Moby Dick read (I read it about 6 years ago and was blown away by it–it’s an excellent choice), but work and life just won’t let me at the moment, so at best I’ll be a lurker. Anyway I’ll be keeping an eye on the site for future group reads.

  8. May 19, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Thanks, David. Enjoyed your thoughtful posts as well. I’m contemplating doing Ulysses after we wrap up Moby-Dick, but that’ll depend largely on whether or not I feel like I can delay other projects for a couple more months.

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