Like many people, I’ve been spending time lately with Roberto Bolaño’s enormous posthumous novel “2666.” The book is strange and wonderful in all sorts of ways, not least because I can’t think of any other novel in which so many meals are consumed while being so little described.
In the 150-page opening section, four lovelorn literary scholars zip around the world, trying to find a fugitive author . . . . They’re always away from home and going out for meals in bars, restaurants, trattorias, taverns and in one case a “Lilliputian” cafeteria. But what do they eat? I have very little idea.
Most of these meals aren’t described at all, and even when certain items are mentioned — a taco here, sausage and potatoes there — there’s no attempt to evoke any sense of how the meal looked, tasted or smelled. I find this curious. I also find it a tremendous relief.
Haven’t we all read too many novels in which authors go to town describing meals in sumptuous, elaborate detail, in some cases even giving us the recipes?
. . . since I’m likely to be reading this while sitting alone on the couch sustained only by instant coffee, I tend to develop a bad case of food envy. It’s a lot like sex, I think. I don’t want characters in novels to eat better than I do, any more than I want them to have better sex lives than I do.