The Savage Detectives
Of these four books that will force you to crave madness, The Savage Detectives is the only one originally written in Spanish. Authored by Roberto Bolaño, a Chilean novelist who immigrated to Mexico, The Savage Detectives is a vicious and beautiful look into the lives of Mexican counter/culture poets, or Visceral Realists. The book follows these poets as they obsess, nearly toward self-termination, over truth and beauty, travel the world and sell drugs. Lots of drugs. The book is one part fictional diary and three parts fictional oral history and every word and paragraph were labored over with intensity.
This book is also remarkable for having an excellent English translation by Natasha Wimmer which stressed on the beauty of Bolaño’s language as much as possible without losing clarity or plot. The Savage Detectives is a much read.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
This list would be remiss without Hunter S. Thompson’s seminal tribute to feverish irresponsibility. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas leaps the line between manic nightmare to profound American introspection often and seamlessly. The most frightening aspect of Thompson’s prose is the very real possibility that the maniac was often the sanest person in his misadventures. This is the first novel length work of his that fully embraced the “Gonzo stylings” that he would become so infamous birthing, and it is by far one of his most entertaining.
Critics would say that Fear and loathing in Las Vegas was little more than Thompson’s (sometimes poor) remembering of a drug fueled binge in Las Vegas… And they would be absolutely right. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas is a case were the storyteller matters more than the story, and in this rare occasion it works perfectly. Come for the bleeding insanity and the wonderfully hateful prose, then get the hell out of Dodge!
Like Thompson’s Fear and loathing in las Vegas, Charles Bukowski’s breakthrough novel, Post Office is a thinly veiled memoir. It follows “Chinaski’s” life through his time working as a postman in the 1950’s. The reader is first met with an internal memo of the United States Postal service reminding its employees that they are the face of the government and that as such they must meet certain standards of civility. The next 200 pages is an example of every instance where this memo was ignored to the fullest and is dedicated “to nobody”. Mail is thrown away, Chinaski is drunk all of the time, and every reprehensible action is pleasurable to read.
At no time does the author offer excuse, justification, or apology for the crimes against man and God that are committed on a page. Everything is delivered “as a matter of fact”, and it is there that the charm of the book lives. Unlike Bolaño or Thompson, Bukowski looks for no greater meaning or truth behind his chemical abuse or sins. They happened. Read about it.
Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club is a noir beauty about self-destruction, nihilism, and love. This last part is easy to gloss over, given the almost manifesto like ramblings of the book’s antagonist, Tyler Durden, and the brutal depictions of self harm and desperate loathing. At its heart, Fight Club is a romance. It is a romance between the novel’s Marla Singer, the narrator, and it is a romance to embracing the abyss when truth is out to lunch.
Palahniuk describes grime like poetry, and his prose does not blink when it discovers darker shades of bleakness. It is a requiem to a modern generation of the lost, and its jet fueled plot keeps the reader moving ever forward at breakneck speed, even at its most introspective moments. “The first rule of Fight Club is–” Well, you should just read it.
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