Friday, June 15, 2007

Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I am an English major and I have read a lot of the classic great novelists. My favourite novelist from the time I was in high school was Thomas Hardy and Tess of the D’Urbervilles is my favourite book. I even have a first edition of the US printing; a generous gift from my friend Pat.

In my last post, I talked about my Harry Potter addiction. That was really about a continuing story. It’s something different to be addicted to writers (there seems to be a theme developing). In the summer of 2004, I read Love in the Time of Cholera and discovered the sheer wonder of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I came across the book in an admittedly cheesy fashion: it features in the movie Serendipity with John Cusak and Kate Beckinsale. Enough said on that.

Love in the Time of Cholera is one of the most heartbreaking and beautiful love stories I have ever read. During a session of the Ladies of Lark Street (side bar: The Ladies of Lark Street is a gathering of the ladies who live or have lived on my street, Lark Street. We rotate hosting duties and proceed to eat great food, drink a lot of wine and basically dish), the conversation inevitably turned to books and I was mentioning how much I loved Love in the time of Cholera. A few of the other ladies had read it and agreed.

The next day my friend and neighbor Michelle dropped The General in his Labyrinth in my mailbox. This book was a bit more challenging as it delves more into political and military history. Marquez, however, has this talent for building richly complex characters who are so deeply flawed and tortured and yet so vibrant and interesting. His love of his homeland oozes from the pages. My aunt Sharon gave me Strange Pilgrims and One Hundred Years of Solitude which many believe is his greatest work and one of the greatest pieces of literature in history. I started Strange Pilgrims and my husband Doug started One Hundred Years of Solitude. Strange Pilgrims is a collection of exquisite short stories. They are all so different which is another thing that is so wonderful about Marquez: there is no formula or predictability in the body of his work (my humble opinion).

I then decided to tackle One Hundred Years of Solitude. Everybody I talk to either loves it or hates it. Sharon hated it. Doug loved it. My verdict: LOVED IT. After reading this book, I have seriously considered ranking him above Hardy as my favourite writer with One Hundred Years as my number two favourite book. This book is steeped in biblical allegory (there's the English major!) and the family tree that Marquez describes is very intricate and covers love, family, war, betrayal, indulgence: the works. The key to reading this is to try not to keep really close track of who everybody is and how they are related and just read it. Read the words and visualize the village, embrace the fantasy and feel the depth of emotion that Marquez portrays. Let it go.

If you haven’t read Marquez before, here is how I recommend getting started:

1. Strange Pilgrims

2. Love in the Time of Cholera
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude

About a month ago, I picked up his most recent book: Memoirs of My Melancholy Whore. I would suggest it’s more of a novella. I read it on a flight from Frankfurt to Lisbon and finished it in a couple of hours. Don’t let the title fool you. This is not a tawdry, vulgar story. It is a story of love: a love that is intense and passionate and that can come at any time of life, even at the end.

I'm leaving Sunday night for a whirlwind tour: Arrive Delhi Monday night, meetings Tuesday, go to Singapore on Tuesday night, fly home on Friday. I have now finished all of my backlog and I would love to pick up a Marquez. Any suggestions?


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]

Hi Nikki,

It's your BIL here. Should I start a list of "Nikki's Picks"?

I really enjoy Marquez's books as well. The first I read was "Story Of A Death Foretold", way back when. Loved it.

The only one I've read and not liked was "The Autumn of the Patriarch". It's a difficult book to read, not because of the subject matter or how it's handled, but because of the writing style: very unconventional, with incredibly long run-on sentences and no paragraphs. A chapter can consist of one sentence that goes on for pages. (I just did a quick Google on it and found that the last chapter is a single sentence ... 50 pages.) The tale itself is very dark, an unsympathetic look at a dictator in decline.

What am I reading right now? An oldie ... "Surfacing" by Margaret Atwood.

Recently finished another oldie, "Even Cowgirls Get The Blues" by Tom Robbins.


"Disgrace" by J.M. Coetzee

"Small Island" by Andrea Levy

"The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini

And a bizarre one that I may have to loan you as it may be out of print: "The Avram Davidson Treasury". It's a book of short stories that are all over the place, mostly science fiction or fantasy, all with a twist. I don't know if you'd like it or not, but it's one of my favourites, so I can't leave it out.

Okay, enough for now. I hope you get some good recommendations.


Anonymous said... [Reply to comment]


Got a few minutes, so I'll expand a bit on the books I mentioned.

Margaret Atwood.

This was Atwood's second novel, a short one. A young woman and some friends go to her home town, a small backwoods village in Quebec, to look for her father, who has disappeared without a trace. A very good read told from the young woman's perspective. It deals with her relationships with her parents, her friends, her current boyfriend, outsiders, and the environment.

Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
Tom Robbins.

Well, it's Tom Robbins ... 'nuff said.

J.M. Coetzee

This is another of my favourites. It's about a professor who has a relationship with a student and the life-altering fallout. Can't say any more without giving away too much.

Small Island
Andrea Levy

A tale about some Jamaicans who wind up in post-war London, some who have served in the RAF, some who come over after the war. Won the Whitbread Book Of the Year and Orange Prize For Fiction.

The Kite Runner
Khaled Hosseini

A great book about relationships between friends and family in Afghanistan and Pakistan.