Dietario voluble (Anagrama, 2010)
by Enrique Vila-Matas
As its very title suggests, it's not entirely clear whether Vila-Matas' nonfiction-like Dietario voluble [Unhinged Diary] is really a diary at all or rather a novel only disguised as a diary--a matter the mischievous Spaniard doesn't help with when he confesses that the overarching theme of his work is "tal vez mi incapacidad de decir la verdad" ["perhaps my inability to tell the truth"] (183). "Perhaps"! Whatever the case may be, this book fiend's equivalent of a compilation album featuring one of your favorite artists' odds and sods finds Vila-Matas getting his anecdotal and aphoristic groove on with a series of soundbites dedicated to the reading and writing life. In one 15-page span alone, for example, there are shout outs to the likes of Flaubert's pronouncements on the primacy of style ("La estética es una justicia superior" ["Aesthetics is a superior form of justice"]) (242); a tip of the hat to previously unknown to me author Ricardo Menéndez Salmón's fed up attack on "falsos escritores" ["false writers"]: "La literatura no es un oficio, es una enfermedad; uno no escribe para ganar dinero o caer bien a la gente, sino porque intenta curarse, porque está infectado, porque lo ha ganado la tristeza" ["Literature isn't a trade, it's a disease. One doesn't write to make money or to sit well with people but to try to heal oneself, because one's infected, because sadness has gotten the upper hand"] (230); and a memorable inside baseball tidbit about a pair of Vila-Matas visits with Pierre Michon highlighted by Michon's definition of the three types of non-false writers that exist in the world: 1) "el bárbaro" ["the barbarian"], as exemplified by Céline; 2) the intellectual in the style of Beckett; 3) a third type that combines the best of both worlds. In other words, "Faulkner or Bolaño" as Michon specified on both occasions (228-229). Mad, geeky fun not least for the sweet account of a pilgrimage to New Directions HQ in which Bolaño and Borges books are seen lined up like "vecinos neoyorquinos en la red del tiempo" ["New York neighbors in the net of time"] (141) and the entirely unexpected and non-bookish moment a page later when Vila-Matas waxes on about "la música hipnótica" ["the hypnotic music"] of CocoRosie and riffs on "el llamado espíritu lo-fi" ["the so-called lo-fi spirit"] of the Casady sisters (142). Rockin'!
Vila-Matas & Bolaño in Blanes, 1998