Bolaño. Baskervilles. Booker.

For 26 days and from A to Z, the Masthead is publishing three things—the first three things—that come to mind…a reader’s word association if you will. This is day two.


This guy might just be one of the most daring writers we’ve had in the past century, maybe longer, maybe ever. Read 2666 and just try to tell me otherwise. The man wrote with purposed vulgarity and violence, never needless. His characters were such lost souls, and his living men had the same grayish tinge, the same drowned stink to them as did his cadavers that littered the Santa Teresa deserts. Reading his work prompts an almost visceral reaction—you almost taste the prison rot in your mouth—It takes so much out of you.


The haunting on the moor, the always suspicion that something is just a bit off, the dining hall with its line of dour portraits—patriarchs deceased and died out even in memory; the fog and chill and curious habits of too-friendly neighbors, the baldness of landscape that brings with it an interminable mystery just beyond the reach of human eye.

Hound of the Baskervilles is one of the four novel-length mysteries that Arthur Conan Doyle gave his Sherlock Holmes. Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead on his manor’s estate, presumably from a heart attack, but a friend doesn’t think so: a rictus of fear had twisted the expression on Charles’ face. A family curse, a diabolical hound, loose on the moor, resurfaces and then, as always, “the game is afoot.”

Part of what I find so captivating about this particular mystery (apart from its imagery) is the way Conan Doyle structured it: he set it up that Holmes is present hardly at all through the middle part of the mystery—he exists almost solely through Watson, and we see how intimately these two friends’ lives have become connected.


Confession: for all the 50 years, from 1969 year of the moon landing through last year’s winner (The Testaments; Margaret Atwood) I have read exactly one Booker prizewinner and that was Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie, 1981).

The picture isn’t much better when I expand to those that were shortlisted: The Satanic Verses (also Rushdie, 1988), The Moor’s Last Sigh (Rushdie again; sensing a pattern here, 1995), Oryx and Crake (Margaret Atwood, 2003) and 4321 (Paul Auster, 2017).

I hardly pay much attention to any prizes given out, Booker or otherwise, but even I know that one out of 50 is pathetic.

Happy reading!

– Day 2 of 26: Bolaño. Baskervilles. Booker –



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