I must confess, in this science fiction future year of 2010, that even with all I have read up to now with a Master’s in English (and it’s a lot), I have never read much by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Truthfully, with titles like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera, can I be blamed for such a grievous sin? They sound more like prolonged fights with heart disease than appealing reads. Why read about some imagined or fictional suffering when our world is already so full of real tragedy?
And, since I am in the confession booth already, I will fully confess that the only work by Marquez I have read dates back to my high school years.
- Gasp! How horrid!
- Oh yes, I know!
- But how can that be?
- I’m not really sure.
Strangely, no English teacher has asked me to read any of his work, not even in those thematic classes strictly focused on a particular genre or period of literature. Post-Colonialism? No. Hemispheric Literature? Nope. American Literature? No, certainly not. You jest! Honestly, you would think someone, somewhere, would offer a class on Magical Realism or, if not, tack one of his works on as an alternate assignment! He is a Nobel Laureate! But alas, such has never been the case.
So, the only interaction I have had with his work is from nearly a decade ago and revolves around the story of a molting, fallen angel in some small town.
- Wait a minute, an Angel you say?
- That simply can’t be!
- Why Not?
- There’s no religion in literature! Unless of course you’re discussing literature as a religion (or is it the other way around?).
- You’re quite right, I had forgotten. I suppose he is more an old man with wings. Nothing metaphysical about that at all, no!
- Good! Let’s move on.
Last week I decided that I needed to rectify this deplorable situation and went out to purchase, in my poverty (with a gift card no less), the collected stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. For amusement, the publishers choose to put the stories in chronological order based on their Spanish publication date.
- I have no idea. The order probably seemed more conductive to criticism.
- That makes sense.
I expected the stories to be both unique and intriguing. After all, he is a well-known author of Magical Realism. I expected to see magic in the mundane, to see my rationality thrown to the wind, and to experience the strange sensation of logical consistency thwarted and fade away. Perhaps I had too high of an impression, or perhaps I have not delved deep enough into his works. In either case, I can summarize the first three short stories like this:
- Deadman’s stream of consciousness
- Deadman’s Twin Brother’s stream of consciousness
- Deadwoman’s stream of consciousness about wanting an orange.
While I am all for dead people driving the plot, Marquez seems like he is trying to compete with the number of dead protagonists in Tim Burton’s filmography.
- Hmmm…yes I’m sensing some repetition in the work. But the orange is unique!
- Yes, well, there is a cat in that one too, or there was supposed to be a cat.
- What happened to the cat?
- Not sure, something like 3000 years happened to it.
- Yeah, poor cat.
Hopefully, the next few stories will be less repetitive than the last. The constant tropes of cancer and tumors that pervade key scenes in the stories is getting a bit long in the tooth. However, the next work deals with the Bitterness of Three Sleepwalkers, so it does not sound promising.
It is finished! Yes, the solemn downpour, the waterfall of words has come to an end. It was a rather soggy end, full of handsomely drowned men and village-destroying ghost ships. Truly, I lost all track of time while reading, which, coincidentally, is a theme that subtly pervades the stories like the scent of roses in a claustrophobic room. The slipping of time, where characters are progressively or abruptly unanchored from reality, became the common fair. It was all a bit unnerving.
- Unrelenting rain is wearisome.
- Add to it the slow collapsing death of a cow wallowing in a muddy garden.
- That sounds painful to witness.
- Not as painful as watching an entire town of women ogle a well-endowed cadaver.
- You don’t say!
- I do indeed.
- Necrophilia appears in the most unlikely places.
- It does, doesn’t it?
- Even in children’s movies?
- Well if Corpse Bride is any indication…
What I hoped to find in these stories was a touch of magic or fantasy. Instead, I read about the the lives of the dead etched into a surreal world where clocks don’t just melt, they ceased to exist, I cannot say these stories of the deceased are uninteresting. They are often far better than some tales of the living. Perhaps that is the point: death is framed by life.
Still, I had expected to find enchantment somewhere else than in the silence of the mausoleum—something a bit more lighthearted and whimsical—a bit more Disney Magic and less Brothers Grimm. Marquez clearly defeated and exceeded my expectations. I’ll have to try One Hundred Years of Solitude in the future—if the future exists and it’s not just a repetition of the past.