a review of books we have not read:
Nazi Literature in The Americas by Roberto Bolaño
(UnReviewed by Kemoe Hopscotch)
Several years before Roberto Bolaño was forced into his life of exile in Svarlbard he started his writing career quite unglamorously, as a cub reporter on the Akron Clarion. Nothing much about his early working life in Ohio indicated that in his Arctic exile, at the same time as running Europe’s most northerly kebab shop, he would produce the book The Savage Detectives.
Only the few readers who had managed to get a copy of his first great opus, Nazi Literature in The Americas, before it was banned throughout the northern hemisphere would have expected that an ordinary American Joe (or Roberto) would be capable of producing such a searing work. For let’s remind ourselves, and those new to Bolaño’s work, that The Savage Detectives is the weighty two and a half thousand page exposé of the vicious and ultimately utterly anti-American malfeasance of various official US torture and murder outfits (the CIA, Citizen Dupe, Homeland Graduates of The School of the Americas, The Hundred Families Class Warriors, False Flag, “Oil Oil Oil”, Black Ops, et al) in the period of the so-called War on Terror
All this from a man whose brief on the Clarion had been to cover society weddings, college baseball games, DUI cases involving trade union officials, and so on. Small and so far unexceptional stuff. But then Bolaño got the gig (so to speak) as the paper’s music reviewer and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Nobel laureate Harry Sinclair Lewis told an interviewer many years ago that when fascism arrived in America it would come clothed in the flag and holding a cross. Several years before the Tea Party arrived on the political landscape Bolaño claims he saw the future coming. Or, to be more exact, he saw that the future had long since arrived. It came not dressed in the Stars and Stripes and brandishing Western culture’s biblical superfable, but instead in a jewel case containing the musicasette of the punk supergroup The Americas eponymous first recording.
In a later interview Bolaño said that at first he had intended a 150 word review of The Americas. He hadn’t much cared for it on first listening, and on subsequent listenings he cared for it even less. He had, he said, thought that he would spin those feelings out to 150 words and that would be that.
But then one early evening he happened to be in a coffeeshop in New York. The coffeeshop was situated on a busy street corner in Manhattan and he was in Manhattan to cover the final qualification stage of the Miss AmeriOil beauty pageant in which a pretty teenager from Akron, Bobbie Joe Gentry, was a contender. As he sipped his latte, he later recalled, he watched people on the other side of the glass teeming past, broken by their labor, exhausted by their serfdom to the ruling class, heading for their graves. As he considered the tragic disempowered lot of the American worker the first unmistakeable strains of GB2, The Americas front man, beginning to croon nations shut the fuck up or we’ll send our workers to kill your workers came from the coffeeshop speakers.
As the song worked towards its final crescendo in which the band members all chime in like some crazed barbershop sextet – GB2 in his cocaine drawl, Donnie R in his gruff knowing thrusting insistent repetitions, The Wolf with his bizarre barking and howling, Shotgun Shooter not singing but reciting ad nauseam the number 266 (* see footnote), Alabama Gal C with her sweet harmonising, and Unkkle Colin’s sonorous baritone – it hit Bolaño that The Americas were on a sinister mission. Back at his hotel he fished out his Sony walkman and put The Americas cassette into it and listened. He relates in the book Nazi Literature in The Americas that it was the first time he had heard, really heard and understood, the band. It was a revelation. Over driving beats, distorted and endlessly looped voice samples, and baying, howling vocals the band was producing an horrific, violently anti-American polemic and dressing it up as patriotism. They were chanting on Kill ‘em all, for example, that the innocent could be righteously killed since God would sort them out afterwards and allot places in heaven to the innocent. On Oil is God and God is American, ergo... they were advocating theft and pre-meditated murder, and so it goes on.
In Nazi Literature in The Americas Bolaño documents the traitorous and undemocratic nature of the band’s lyrics. He charts the (still ongoing) tour the band undertook to promote the album and takes issue with the band’s insistence that they are the true heirs of James Madison. His initial idea of a 150 word review mushroomed into a 227 page sideswipe at one of our greatest bands of the modern era.
It is for this reason that I have refused to read Bolaño’s book and any of his other work and am grateful to all the individuals and institutions (including the CIA, Citizen Dupe, Homeland Graduates of The School of the Americas, The Hundred Families Class Warriors, False Flag, “Oil Oil Oil”, Black Ops, et al) who have alerted me to Bolaño’s distortions of the true pacific nature of our nation’s greatest musical exports.
• footnote: 266 is the number of global citizens The Americas claim in the song nations shut the fuck up should be killed for each American citizen killed. According to some sources Bolaño’s magnum opus, 2666, was so titled to exaggerate this by a factor of 10 plus 6.
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