I am currently reading 2666, a novel by Roberto Bolaño.
2666 - published in Spanish a year after the Chilean author's death in 2003 - has been translated into English and, since its publication last fall, has become a literary sensation, the current "it" novel.
Minh Tran Huy, reviewing the book for Le Magazine Litteraire (Paris) said that Bolaño "borrows from vaudeville and the campus novel, from noir and pulp, from science fiction, from the bildungsroman, from war novels; the tone of his writing oscillates between humor and total darkness, between the simplicity of a fairy tale and the false neutrality of a police report".
Marcela Valdes, writing in The Nation last December, stated that "all of Bolaño's mature novels scrutinize how writers react to repressive regimes ... [and explore] the relationship between art and infamy, craft and crime, the writer and the totalitarian state."
Valdes notes that a large part of the book is "spun from ghastly news: the murder, since 1993, of more than 430 women and girls in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, particularly in Ciudad Juarez". The area is called Santa Teresa in the novel. Bolaño had been fascinated by the murders for a long time and his relationship with reporter Sergio González Rodríguez (who investigated the crimes, most of which remain unsolved; see also Salon, 2002) is explored at length in her article.
Last fall, I had read some David Foster Wallace fans stating that parts of 2666 were similar to Wallace's 1996 novel Infinite Jest, though I'm not sure exactly in what way. Then some of them set-up a group read for 2666. That, coupled with the insanely positive reviews the book has received -- La Vanguardia called it "not just the great Spanish-language novel of this decade, but one of the cornerstones that define an entire literature" -- nudged me to get the book (though I am well behind the pace of the group read).
I don't read a lot of fiction, but over the last decade, I seem to have had a weakness for novels that are long, literary, and well-hyped. That was how I discovered Infinite Jest (1,079 pages). The following year I was drawn to Thomas Pynchon's Mason & Dixon (773) and Don DeLillo's Underworld (827) (which I have autographed by both DeLillo and Andy Pafko!) In 2004, I tried Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell (800) -- which, oddly, copied the very distinctive ampersand Pynchon used for M&D -- but gave up after about 150 pages.
Now that I think about it, the attraction to big books may date back much earlier. I recall lugging around a hard cover copy of Moby Dick when I was in fifth grade. I read the thing, too. I cannot imagine what the 10-year-old me got out of it.