Just Some Bolaño

1. Charles Keating poses, per the request of another photographer. 2. Michael Stuhlbarg at sound check.

I felt an urge to pregame the Bolaño Selected Shorts night at Symphony Space with a beer and a whisky. I thought this wise because I’d underdressed, and it was cold, but also because I was unaware there was going to be free rum. Twenty-three-year-old free rum, aged in sherry casks, which is really the only sort of rum I’d let past my lips. Three drinks in, I’m more pliable and less likely to remember the fine details of the things like what people say to me or what your name is, so my urges ended up working out for everyone: my Symphony Space hosts were chatting about some reader or another (I forget the name of the person), and I’m sure they were saying something interesting — or I think they were anyway, the red chairs were distracting me — because suddenly my presence was felt. “No backstage stuff!” “Huh?” I said, and they replied, “don’t write about this!” This was said kindly, but with enough gentle force to justify my (mis)remembering it as including exclamation points. Ah, memory!

1. That rum was far older than most the things I put in my mouth. 2. Mike (MG) and Andrew, Bolaño fan and scientist. Mike’s favorite Bolaño bit was 2666 Distant Star (everyone says 2666), Andrew plans to read Bolaño “after tonight.” 3. Think of all the plush to rub your hand against: so much red! 4. Blue curtains. Blue curtains!

Moments before (was it after?) the no-backstage-stuff request, I’d been shooting pics of Charles Keating with a photographer from Soap Opera Digest. “I loved him in Another World,” she told me. “I’ve never seen him before,” I replied, which could have been completely untrue. His Lear-like beard-and-shaggy-mop combo impressed me. I’ll be bald before I can grow facial hair like that. Keating, contrary to the program — this I remember distinctly, because British accents mark my mind like artificial dyes ink eggshells, and because I have the program, still — read two of the selected shorts by writers Bolaño admired: “The Shape of the Sword” by Borges and “Something Like That” by Parra. The latter one gets right down to the knotted problems of philosophy:

The true problem of philosophy is who does the dishes — nothing otherworldly.

You don’t have to be a slightly redeemed communist to see the truth of that.

The readings proper began with Ivan Hernandez reading “On the Honeymoon” by Marías, proceeded through the two pieces that Keating read, and ended with Michael Stuhlbarg (also displaying an impressive amount of hair and beard) reading “William Burns” by Bolaño. Like many of Bolaño’s characters, Will Burns meets a bloody end after getting ensnared in a string of violence.

And we learn about it as an afterthought.

–Jake Davis is not going to do your dishes.

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