Alejandro Zambra’s novel of poets, repetition, and change

Hannah Gold at Bookforum:

IN AN ESSAY ABOUT NATALIA GINZBURG, the Chilean novelist and critic Alejandro Zambra writes, “When someone repeats a story we presume they don’t remember that they’ve already told it, but often we repeat stories consciously, because we are unable to repress the desire, the joy of telling them again.” Of course the compulsion to retell a story is not always situated in joy’s lofty terrain. We might repeat a story in the hopes of shrinking it to a manageable bite, or because it reminds us of another story, or to shine up disagreeable aspects of our lives, or to mock it, perhaps secretly wishing it will deflect mockery from our more vulnerable, foolish selves. All of this is present, for me, in Zambra’s writing, and has been since the first time I read his work, which was around four years ago on the recommendation of someone I’d been on a few dates with. In the desultory landscapes of Bushwick and Greenpoint the snow was comically high, but only in retrospect. Everyone suddenly knew what an NDA was and wondered how to get out of theirs. We talked haughtily and agreeably about literature, and then I said something cruel about his dog, which turned out really to be the only thing, years later, we still talked about. The dog was named after a writer who composed several books of poetry but is best known for his novels.

more here.