Benjamin McPherson Ficklin was born in Portland, Oregon, and now spends most of his life travelling. Outside of his writing and photography, he works as a gongfu tea-master, lumberjack, commercial salmon fisherman, and ulu farmer. His work has been published in Lomography, Ursus Americanus Press, Clackamas Literary Review, Autre, Bang!, and all three anthologies by The Stonecutters Union. He serves as the event coordinator for several environmental and arts-promotional nonprofits.
This March, Benjamin will be leading Roberto Bolaño: 2666. Here is what he has to say about the seminar!
Q: What interests/excites you about the author(s) your Delve is focused on?
A: Roberto Bolaño once wrote, “…the heart of the matter is knowing whether evil (or sin or crime or whatever you want to call it) is random or purposeful. If it’s purposeful, we can fight it, it’s hard to defeat, but we have a chance, like boxers in the same weight class, more or less. If it’s random, on the other hand, we’re fucked, and we’ll just have to hope that God, if He exists, has mercy on us.” This question of evil’s origin permeates all his work, and his text that most meticulously details society’s evils is 2666, a novel that sprawls from Detroit to Paris to the northern Mexico border town of Santa Teresa. These landscapes are inhabited by characters from myriad social strata: journalists, prostitutes, literary critics, factory workers, soldiers, and cartel members. Their lives exemplify who has power and who is oppressed. With its emphasis on civil rights, immigration, toxic masculinity, and a global rise of totalitarianism, 2666 is the most pertinent novel to both our personal and global lives.
Q: What can participants expect to happen in your Delve seminar?
A: Each meeting will stay grounded in the text of 2666, but the expansive and challenging nature of the book will force participants to consider contemporary events prophesied in the massive novel: Black Lives Matter, the Mexico/US border atrocities, and a strengthening global totalitarianism are just a few of the current issues explored in this text. We’ll spring from concrete passages to discussing the book literarily, philosophically, and politically. We’ll discuss the book as a revolutionary tool, a work of investigative journalism, and as a masterpiece of literature.
Q: What do you think is the best way to have a good Delve experience in your seminar?
A: Delvers need only to thoughtfully read the text to thrive in this seminar. 2666 is so philosophically and politically potent that each meeting will inevitably overflow with poignant and critical conversations.
Q: What do you like most about being a Delve guide?
A: Acting as a Delve guide allows me to explore a text in collaboration with all the other readers. Unlike a lecture-based class, Delve seminars facilitate conversations that empower each reader to contribute their interpretation to the rest of the group. This format constantly supplies each participant with new insights on a text, an educational experience regardless of one’s previous connection with an author, book, or theme. These conversations create a strong sense of camaraderie, and every seminar ends with participants wishing that whatever book they read next could be explored in collaboration with such an interested group.