In this book, Bolaño has mythologized his life and friends in much the same way Kerouac did with the Duluoz Legend. It's my favorite book; not for all time, not six months from now, but at this very moment. The kind of book that you almost feel a friendship develop with and are sad to finally finish.
The middle section of the book breaks into more than 40 first-person narratives (it's an oral history) revolving around the protagonists Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, founders of the avant-garde poetry gang the Visceral Realists.
The Savage Detectives is a novel for people who can appreciate the unsure, incidental humor and pretense of youth. It's a novel for people who feel a little bit lonely after finding a legendary out-of-print book in a used bookstore only to realize they don't know anyone who has heard of it. A novel for people who get excited when they hear their favorite obscure writers evoked casually in conversation. A novel for people who, during their reading, compile lists of newly discovered writers for later exploration. A novel for people who read Pedro Páramo in the doctor's office while waiting for their father to finish his colonoscopy. A novel for people who dream about scorpions that only come out at night.
(I just purchased a beautiful three book edition of Bolaño's posthumous opus, 2666. I'm eager to read it, but for now I'm going to place it by my door on a special shelf where it will sit like a gargoyle and protect me from spirits while I sleep.)