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Thermals Drummer Talks About His Favorite Book

Usually the musicians talking about their favorite books in’s ongoing Book Club series are lyricists and songwriters — which makes sense because if you write the words, you’re probably influenced by reading words. For this installment, we asked Westin Glass, drummer (and non-songwriter) for the Thermals, to recommend a novel. And while Glass is a bit self-deprecating about his artistic contribution to his band — “I just bash on things and hang out with musicians” — he’s selected an esteemed work as his current fave.

2666, the final book by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolano, was named one of the 10 best books of 2008 by The New York Times, who said, with its publication, the author rose “to the summit of modern fiction.” Initially published in Spanish in 2004, it contains five distinct narratives that revolve around a Mexican border town where scores of women have been murdered.

At nearly-1,000 pages, 2666 is a foreboding selection, but Glass assures it’s more inspiring than intimidating. But did it influence the drumming on his band’s SPIN-approved new album, Now We Can See? We caught up with Glass to find out. How did you come across this book?
Westin Glass: I have a friend who works at a publishing house in New York that’s been putting out the English translations of Bolano’s work and he recommended I read [Bolano’s breakthrough work] The Savage Detectives. I read that and immediately fell in love with Bolano. He’s an amazing author and writes unlike anyone I’ve ever read. After that I read everything I could find by him. 2666 only came out a few months ago so I immediately read it and it blew my mind.

What is it about his writing that compels you?
Bolano has a writing style that I’ve never encountered with anyone else. He has this weird conversational style, but at the same time he relies on things like diaries and journalism. He pulls things together. He’ll be casually talking and just drop in some jarring thing, but in such a casual way that it doesn’t hit you right away.

How many of his books have you read?
Six or seven. 2666 is the last book he wrote before he died and it’s a really long, really big book. It’s in five parts.

Is it hard to carry around such a big book on tour?
Yes, and we were on tour in Europe when I read this book. The cool thing about the paperback version, though, is that it comes in three volumes so I could just take one volume around at a time.

Are you generally attracted to long books?
I like short books too. The Great Gatsby is my favorite book of all time. But I’ve read a lot of [Thomas] Pynchon and his books are enormous, like doorstops. I loved Mason & Dixon and that book took me so long to get through.

Do you think the books you read influence the music you make?
Well, as the drummer it’s a stretch to say I even make music. I just bash on things and hang out with musicians. That’s the joke about drummers. I would say good books influence me in a deep way and influence who I am in a deep way. That, for me, is the mark of what makes a really good book. I would say 2666 had that affect on me. It made me think about things in a way I’ve never thought about them before. As for whether it influenced my music, if it does, it’s not in any direct way.

Maybe you could take all those giant books you read and make a drumset.
I could. Or I could stack them all up and sit on them while I play. It would be a tad pretentious, but I’m a tad pretentious so it’s okay.

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