Tag: marquez

2014 Book #18: In the Night of Time

inthenightoftimeI’m usually not one to read historical novels, but I kept running into In the Night of Time, and when I saw that the library happened to have it, I gave it a try. The book’s size is daunting at roughly the size of The Goldfinch. It’s also much more dense: words are packed onto pages in small type with very few paragraph breaks and almost no dialogue. Near the beginning, at least, it reads a little like Autumn of the Patriarch, and it took me a hundred pages, or so, to catch on. The language is meticulous, beautiful, and flowing, which is how I kept reading. I almost put it down a few times, in fact, before things got more interesting.

It’s about an architect, Ignacio Abel, and what happens to him during events leading up to the Spanish Civil War. His parents were poor, but he got an education and married into a wealthy family who helped him progress in his career. He has two children with his wife and is now considered a gentleman. At a speaking engagement, he meets Judith Biely, an American student, and instantly falls in love with her. He purposely finds her afterward, and they begin an intense affair while the war is beginning around them. The novel details what happens to them, to Ignacio Abel’s family, and to Spain.

About halfway through In the Night of Time, I realized that almost all of my knowledge of Spain comes from Monty Python, Gabriel García Márquez, and Ernest Hemingway. Which means that I know almost nothing about Spain. Reading about the Spanish Civil War from a perspective that wasn’t foreign and Hemingway’s, in particular, was interesting. Hemingway seems to tell about it from a distance, but Antonio Muñoz Molina doesn’t, though the latter couldn’t have actually experienced it. The writing style made the violence feel immediate and, at times, terrifying.

In the Night of Time is really worth a read if you can make it through the first hundred pages, or so. It takes patience, but it’s rewarding. The language is beautiful and evokes García Márquez at times, and the detail is so meticulous that you can’t help but feel immersed. Mainly, though, be patient.

When books are this big and somehow slip past my tl;dr pile, I usually read them on my iPad because I don’t like lugging around and holding heavy books for an extended period of time. In the past, I’ve had more success finishing long books on my iPad. This one, for some reason, didn’t bother me. I guess reading a paper book was refreshing because most of what I read, now, is digital. Which is funny because I have a whole room full of paper books in my house, and I’ve only read a little more than half of them.

Now, it’s time to catch up with George R.R. Martin. Yep, A Dance with Dragons. It’s been a while since I read the last Game of Thrones book, and since the 4th TV season (which I won’t watch) is about to start, I need All the Spoilers. I’ve put it off for as long as I could since God knows when Martin will finish the sixth book, but It Is Time.

2013 Book #37: The Autumn of the Patriarch

autumnofthepatriarchThere is no way I can do this book justice, but I guess that goes for everything I’ve read by Gabriel Garcia MarquezThe Autumn of the Patriarch has been on my Fail Pile for several years now. I tried reading it a few years ago, but I just couldn’t get through it. It just ran in my head in a monotone, and I couldn’t grasp even what was going on.

But that was before I read One Hundred Years of Solitude, my Very Favorite Book, and other Garcia Marquez I’ve been rationing after that one. The Autumn of the Patriarch inhabits the same kind of world as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Chronicle of a Death Foretold in that it’s all-encompassing. Autumn of the Patriarch covers at least a hundred years, the lifespan of a dictator in South America. He is cruel and powerful and growing toward senility. There’s an excellent essay in the back of the paperback edition I read that summarizes the plot well and argues that Garcia Marquez sums it up a bit too briefly by blaming the dictator’s actions on an inability to love. I agree, though I disagree when the critic goes on to say that the reader hates the dictator. The situation is so complex that I can’t, though I flinched when he did horrible things like rig the lottery, then killed off the 2000 kids who made it seem legit to the public.

I’m not sure why I reacted so strongly to this novel, this time. When I tried to read it before, I slaved over it for at least a couple of weeks, but I don’t think I got through even half of it. This time, it took me two days, and it wasn’t difficult. Before, I was entirely distracted by the punctuation and lack of line breaks: there’s no paragraph separation, no quotation marks around dialog, and point of view shifts in the middle of sentences that are mostly run-ons and go on for pages and pages. I’m not surprised that I was distracted by that, but I don’t understand what’s so different now. I think the structure makes the story, which lasts only a moment and is basically a series of flashbacks, feel like that one moment. After the General (he is never named) is dead, some people break into his mansion, see how he left it, and tell the story of how it got that way and what happened over the course of his life. That’s basically the story.

But it’s also so much more! And it’s so complex! Now that I’ve gotten through it, I wouldn’t call it particularly difficult as long as a lack of linear story and punctuation aren’t deal-breakers for you. You’ll probably like it if you’re a fan of One Hundred Years of Solitude or Love in the Time of Cholera.

2013 Book #9: Love in the Time of Cholera

cholera.jpgI’m not usually one to write a blog post immediately after I finish a book, but here goes. (Okay, I’m not writing immediately after. It was Litter Box Time, and it couldn’t be avoided without a mutiny.) I’ve been meaning to read Love in the Time of Cholera for a couple of years, ever since I read One Hundred Years of Solitude and declared it my Favorite Book Ever (or at least my favorite book of 2011). It’s my third completed Gabriel Garcia Marquez book of four attempts. I’ll somehow get through Autumn of the Patriarch one day and explain. Or you can try reading it. Believe me, you’ll understand.

So. Here we were with One Hundred Years of Solitude (have I mentioned it’s quite possibly my Favorite Book Ever?) and Chronicle of a Death Foretold, both of which I’ve written about in this blog. The former is better than the latter and the latter reminds me of the former and so on. I’ve talked about it before. Both are good and certainly worth a read. What all that means is that I had high expectations for Love in the Time of Cholera.

I’d put off reading it for a long time for various stupid reasons. First, when I’m trying to hit a goal of 50 books per year (as in 2011, the first, pre-diabeetus part of 2012, and this year, I’ve tl;dr-ed most longer books. (Okay, there are huge examples of that being a lie, like Suttree, The Satanic Verses, and Crime and Punishment to name only a few. I didn’t say that my tl;dr-ing wasn’t arbitrary). And Love in the Time of Cholera isn’t as long as any of those or as long as One Hundred Years of Solitude. But I digress. Anyway, Marquez isn’t exactly a fast, easy read – but he flows so smoothly.

Love in the Time of Cholera is about long-unrequited love. Florentino Ariza sees Fermina Daza when both of them are young, and he instantly falls in hopeless love. They exchange love letters for years, but she ends up marrying Juvenal Urbino, a more attractive, wealthy doctor from a “better” family. They live their separate lives, Florentino Ariza never giving up hope of winning Fermina Daza, until they meet again after Juvenal Urbino’s death. (I promise I’m not ruining everything – we learn about this at the beginning.) The point of view fluctuates (remaining third-person) from character to character throughout the novel, so we learned about the past and the present in very personal bits.

And now, the more I write about it, the more I like it. Though it’s not my favorite of Marquez’s novels, it’s very well-written. The way the perspectives interweave is amazing, and the language flows oh so smoothly (that is, of course, thanks, in part, to the translator, but hey). It’s not a fast read – no Marquez I’ve encountered is – but it’s a lovely one.

But here’s why I don’t like it as much as One Hundred Years of Solitude – or one of the reasons: I got annoyed with Florentino Ariza, his incessant romanticism of Fermina Daza, and his (sometimes gross) affairs with other women throughout his lifetime. I found him tiresome after a while. And I think I mentioned gross (you’ll know what I mean when you get to that part).

Go and read it. Curl up somewhere comfortable, and expect to spend several hours glued to this book. You won’t be sorry you did.

2011: The Year in Books

I did it. I read fifty books this year. After 2010’s embarrassing performance, I’m rather proud of myself, especially since that fifty includes some really long ones like Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and 1Q84 and some really hard ones like The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children.

I enjoyed the vast majority of them, and I enjoyed the experience of spending most of the year ahead of my quota, then playing catch-up at the very end. I wasn’t sure I would make it: I finished #46, Midnight’s Children, only a couple of days before Christmas, leaving a week to read four novels. Luckily, I found some good short ones. I’m looking forward to some longer ones this year, but I think I’ll try to stay away from the long and difficult. Rushdie does have some shorter novels.

Here’s my list from 2011, formatted like my 2010 list. Bold means I really liked it, and italics means I really disliked it. If it’s neither of those, it was good enough. I’ll use strikethrough for the few books I tried to read and gave up on.

This list is much more impressive than last year’s. In 2012 I’m attempting another fifty and trying to put a more formal spin on things since I’ll be cross-posting to the liberry’s webpage (yay!).

But I’m getting ahead of myself. I haven’t yet announced my favorite book of the year. Last year, it was David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, with Murakami‘s Dance Dance Dance as a close second. If you would have asked me then, I would have predicted that 1Q84 would top my list this year, but I didn’t like it half as well as I thought I would, though that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it. And, if you’ve been following my blog recently, you might expect Midnight’s Children, but no! It’s a close second to…

Drumroll please…

201112311722.jpg

One Hundred Years of Solitude

Yep. The best book I read this year was the very first one. I think it’s My Very Favorite Book Ever. I’m not going to rehash my review here. The closest rival is, as I said, Midnight’s Children, but that’s because they’re so similar. I hope I find a book half as good as either of those in 2012.

So, that’s it. Out with the old, and in with the new, as they say. I have another fifty books ahead of me, and fifty-two weeks to read them. Wish me luck.

2011 Book #17: Crime and Punishment

crime-and-punishment.jpegSo. I read Crime and Punishment and liked it, though not as much as I thought I would when I was halfway through. At one point, I thought it might trump One Hundred Years of Solitude, but it didn’t. I’m not going to summarize it here because everyone is familiar with it. The funny thing is that I had no idea how it ends. I knew, going in, that Raskolnikov kills someone and then suffers because of it. I didn’t know that he, in fact, kills two people, though the second person, I guess, doesn’t really matter. (I felt better when neither Jacob nor Palmer knew about the second, either.)

My only problem with the novel is the end. I was disappointed that it ends relatively happily under the circumstances, that Raskolnikov sees the light, so to speak. It’s hopeful. I’d braced myself for a depressing, pessimistic ending, and I was disappointed because it wasn’t the life-changing end I’d expected. Crime and Punishment is, after all, considered one of the best novels ever written. My expectations, I guess, were too high.

This novel got me to thinking, though. The main reason I’d never read it is that I wasn’t assigned it in college. Granted, I don’t think I ever took a class that involved Russian lit of any sort, beyond a modern lit class in grad school, and even then it was Notes from Underground, which is very short. Professors don’t assign long novels anymore. I’ve heard many times things like “I assigned such-and-such, but I’d have assigned such-and-such instead because it’s better, but it’s sooooo long.” I think My Antonia, The Well of Loneliness, and Orlando might have been the longest novels I had to read in college, and they’re all significantly shorter than Crime and Punishment. And the same professor assigned all of those novels.

I often feel shorted in my English degree, though UNO had a really good English department back in the day. And I’m not sure I’d have read a long novel if I was assigned one, though I think I read all of those three. I don’t think I got all the way through Orlando, though I put in a good effort. It sucks that professors have become so cynical that they assume students won’t read long assignments. Not that students help, of course. I read my share of Cliff’s Notes.

As disappointed as I was in Crime and Punishment, (and, to tell the truth, I wasn’t all that disappointed) I can easily recognize that it’s a Great Novel and that anyone with a lit degree should have read it. I remember a professor assigning a short Dickens selection and claiming that a whole Dickens novel would be too much. I read A Tale of Two Cities right after I graduated and was angry that I hadn’t read it earlier. I have too many holes in my English degree, and I think it’s because professors are caving in to students’ laziness. I slipped through college with mostly As and didn’t do a quarter of the work I should have had to do to get them, and now I regret it. And I went to a good school. Sometimes I’m amazed that LSUS English graduates are even literate.

2011 Book #16: Chronicle of a Death Foretold

Chronicle of a Death Foretold is short, and I guess that’s my only real complaint. It’s similar, in a lot of ways, to One Hundred Years of Solitude, minus the vast epicness, which is my favorite thing about that novel. I’m not saying that means I didn’t like this one.

It’s a novel(la?) spiraling around Santiago Nasar, who is killed by two brothers defending their sister’s honor. As the story progresses, we learn more and more about the circumstances and how everyone in town knew exactly what was going to happen but did nothing to prevent it for various reasons. Angela Vicario, just married hours before, is returned to her parents’ home after her new husband discovs that she’s not a virgi. When asked, she says Santiago Nasar took her virginity, so her brothers want to kill him. Marquez is never clear about whether he actually did or not.

Again, it’s short, though I don’t see how a novel like this could be very long, and if it was, it would be tiring. I miss the world of One Hundred Years of Solitude, though I know every Marquez novel can’t rehash that one. He did mention a couple characters from it, though, for all I know, they could be actual historical figures. I know exactly zero about Colombian history. I do know that I’m looking forward to reading more Marquez. I’m spacing him out, though, like Murakami, especially since he’s quit writing.

2011 Book #1: One Hundred Years of Solitude

I’ve certainly begun my 52 books with a bang. One Hundred Years of Solitude just might be the best novel I’ve ever read. It’s definitely the most epic. It follows a family and a town from birth to death, through wars and colonialism and personal tragedy. The family line is so complicated, with the vast majority of names involving Jose Arcadio or Aureliano in every generation, that the publisher was kind enough to include a family tree just before the first chapter begins. At one point, one Aureliano begets seventeen more Aurelianos.

It’s also very long and a rather slow read – not to say it’s boring: it held my interest throughout. I should also say that listing it as the first book of the year is somewhat of a cheat because I started reading it at least a couple of weeks ago and only read the second half of it since the first of the year.

The funny thing is that most of the things I’m saying about it seem bad when I think I’ve found a new favorite novel. It beats any Murakami I’ve read hands-down. I read somewhere that Murakami lists Marquez as an influence on his own work, and I can see how: One Hundred Years of Solitude is infused with the same kind of magical realism that Murakami’s is. It’s like the supernatural elements – like flying carpets, benign ghosts, and an ascension into heaven – are fully integrated into reality.

I’m half tempted to gorge myself immediately on the rest of Marquez’s books, but I’m not going to. I’ll spread him out like I did Murakami, stretching his novels into a couple years, at least – and not ruining him for myself like I did DeLillo.

One Hundred Years of Solitude isn’t my first Marquez book, though it’s the first one I’ve finished. Years ago, I tried reading Autumn of the Patriarch, which I didn’t finish because it seemed impossible to read. It’s around three hundred pages, split into eight chapters, and each sentence is almost the length of the whole chapter. I read it for a challenge, and I lost. Reading this one, though, makes me want to give it another try.


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