Rodrigo Fresán: the virtues of the reader

When one thinks of Rodrigo Fresan, one immediately thinks of a registered trademark. This feeling reappears whenever we approach the great authors that interest us. Impossible not to record their voices, their worlds, their convictions, their phobias, their ways of reading. Just as it happens with Jorge Luis Borges, Roberto Bolaño, Carson McCullers, Franz Kafka, Annie Proulx, David Foster Wallace or with the indecipherable William T. Vollmann, the same thing happens with Rodrigo Fresán: it is intuited that there is a planet of his own, the planet Fresán .

Some of the books that sustain and solidify this planet are: Argentine history, Kensington Gardens, the sky background, the speed of things, Melvill or that insane trilogy made up of the novels the invented part, the dream part y The remembered part an exploration of that strange and symbolic horror of the writer unable to write.

But another variant also stands out that enlarges the planet Fresán and, perhaps, with much more pleasure for the author himself: the Rodrigo Fresán reader. Or consumer. Both books, movies and music, as well as television series, comics and extremely rare fluctuating information on the net. Perhaps the Fresán that interests us the most in this text is the reading Fresán, that hecatomb of literary references that, through his essays, his presentations uploaded to YouTube, his interviews, his prologues, his articles and his internal comments on the works Complete collections of American classics, it has brought literature as close to the new generations as few have done in the 21st century.

Namely, Rodrigo Fresán is not the writer who keeps his readings or discoveries to himself, but rather the writer who shares and invites to read what he has just found or rediscovered. A specialist in the gringo literary tradition, he has even conceptualized a system to follow the route of what is known as “The Great American Novel”, and presents in various articles and talks some of the totemic books that mark the departure of this literary ambition and , for which other novels constantly orbit around it: Moby Dick of Melville, the scarlet letter de Hawthorne, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn the Twain, portrait of a lady by Henry James and Lolita de Nabokov.

Fresán’s monumental novel trilogy: “The told part”,

Rodrigo Fresán seems to know everything about North American literature. On more than one occasion, he has recounted that when he travels to Scott Fitzgerald’s country, his American friends get angry with him because he seems more informed than they are about new publications in English than about new literature written in Spanish. Hence perhaps that famous legend that runs among us, which tells that gringo publishers send him the machotes of their next publications before they come to light. He doesn’t surprise. That alone would explain the intimidating number of reviews and articles that he has published on the books of the new promises of North American literature that were not known in Spanish at the time. Some examples: Philipp Meyer, Marlon James, Tao Lin, Nicole Krauss, Ottesa Moshfegh, Jonathan Safran Foer, Colson Whitehead, Ben Lerner, Joshua Cohen, etc.

But man will not live by novelties alone. And Rodrigo Fresán knows that very well. For this reason, among his readings, names that can make nations tremble shine: Herman Melville, Emily Bronte, Scott Fitzgerald, Vladimir Nabokov, Jorge Luis Borges, William Faulkner, Juan Carlos Onetti, John Cheever, Dennis Johnson, Carson McCullers, Thomas Pynchon & co, and so to infinity. What is admirable is not so much the enormous accumulation of his references, but the way in which Fresán reads them all, but especially, the way in which he shares them. And this is because Fresán never intimidates those who listen or read it, on the contrary, he always stimulates them and guides them through a clear, close and hilarious writing; Well, every time he talks or writes about the writers he likes, it’s as if he were talking or writing about his closest friends or people who were part of his DNA.

As an obsessive reader of John Cheever and Carson McCullers, Fresán has been in charge of prefacing and commenting on the complete stories of both, with an admirable erudition that not only stops at the literary part of the authors, but also at the extraliterary: anecdotes, editorial gossip, disputes and classified information that only a fan with a detective spirit can access, but above all, share.

Chilean writer Roberto Bolaño, an inescapable radioactive reference.

In the same vein we have the work he did directing the Red & Black collection of Random House Mondadori, dedicated to crime novels, where he introduces us to a group of storytellers in a state of grace: Don Winslow with The power of the dog Stephen Woodworth con red hands, Michael Koryta con I say goodbye tonightMichael Marshall con The lonely dead David Thompson con suspects, Simon Beckett con the chemistry of death and others. Fresán prefaces them all and expands its territories to unsuspected areas. Here are the virtues of the I reader of him.

At this point, I would like to propose an exercise that I do every time I find books by North American authors that are not widely circulated in our Spanish-speaking world: googling the name of the author and the title of the book, along with the keyword principal: Rodrigo Fresán. I am almost sure that an article, a comment or a note from Fresán will appear out there sharing that reading. It has happened to me with Jim Thompson, Richard Brautigan, Don Carpenter, Robert Stone, Ann Beattie, Tom Spanbauer, Joe Meno, etc. The question I ask myself then is: who hasn’t this guy written about? Or, even better: who will you write about next?

Be that as it may, I think that, in a certain sense, Fresán reads not only to nourish himself as a writer, but also to carry out a kind of brutal evangelical activity, thus sharing the sacred books that make up his planet with those most in need. He appreciates evangelism. The tribe will continue to grow. And that’s enough.

(JJ Maldonado).