Worst books, continued

April 20, 2012 § Leave a comment

Wilson’s Buenos Aires: A Cultural and Literary History is preceded by one of the most hauntingly beautiful introductions I have ever read, by one Alberto Manguel — it’s three pages are easily worth the price of the book.

Too bad about the book itself, though: Wilson has a slovenly way of writing, thoughts and sentences appear strung together without any apparent order.  After they have washed over you, you are left with the distinct impression that you have learned nothing. Perhaps you can make any sense out of the 10 page summary of the history of the city, I could not — I am left with no clue at all as to what constituted the nature of the struggle between the city and the country, or the Radicals and the Peronistas.  The lengthy description of the character of the porteno (the typical city resident) contains very many literary quotations but does not seem to add up to any coherent picture (it seems that the portenos are garrulous, cordial, reserved, and cool?).  A paragraph telling you how nasty, smelly, noisy and uncomfortable a walk through Buenos Aires might be ends with the sentence that “still, BA is very much a walking city.”  There are numerous puzzling interjections, such as that “Gombrowicz hailed from very minor aristocracy” (which is, incidentally, strictly speaking, not true) to introduce a quotation about the great number of good looking people one can observe in Buenos Aires.  (Why is this relevant?)

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