One Hundred Years of Solitude-Gabriel Garcia Marquez

So, I’m pretty sure with this book, Dave and I have wrapped up Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s contributions to  The Top Ten.   And, I have to say that I am _extremely_ happy that I had the opportunity to read this book for our experiment/project.

The following authors listed this book in their top ten:

Lee K. Abbott, Russell Banks, Pearl Cleage, Edwidge Danticat (and I’ve never heard of them before but LOVE the name!), Chitra Divrakuni, Karen Joy Foyler, Michael Griffith, Alice Hoffman, Jim Harrison, John Irving, Wally Lamb, Ann Patchett, Francine Prose, Jim Shepard and Alexander McCall Smith.

I remember once, years ago, picking up One Hundred Years of Solitude and attempting to read it.  I made it maybe ten pages in and gave up.  I’m not sure why, though most likely I was in the midst of reading Dean Koontz novels or something and the writing style is definitely different from that.   So, when I picked it up again, I did so without fully knowing what to expect.  I had a little trepidation, one might say.  Halfway through the first chapter, my trepidation disappeared and the story consumed me.  The language is beautiful.  I liked this one better than Love in the Time of Cholera, this one had a bit more magic to it than Cholera did.

The story follows a family and intertwined with the family, a town, Macondo.  In fact, the state of the town usually reflects the state of the family and vice versa.  The founders of the family, Ursula and Jose Arcadio Buendia are the first characters we meet.  Marquez is genius at painting characters in a few strokes.  He then spends the rest of the story coloring them in, but even if he didn’t, you would feel that you knew the character completely from the beginning.  The following is one of the beginning things said about Ursula.  Her and Jose are arguing, he wants to explore and abandon the city that he founded.  She doesn’t want to leave.  He tells her that no one has died yet in the city, so you know it’s not a real city until someone does.

“Ursula replied with soft firmness ‘If I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die'”.

The story follows the Buendia family from this time until a hundred years later.  Jose & Ursula’s two sons are Jose Arcadio and Aureliano.  Jose ends up having a child who is named Jose Arcadio, but called Arcadio, and then Jose runs off to not be seen for a few more years of narrative.  Aureliano stays and becomes a Colonel in a Liberal revolution.  Jose is…very well endowed.

“…the willful first-born who had always been too big for his age, had become a monumental adolescent.  One night, as Ursula went into the room where he was undressing to go to bed, she felt a mingled sense of shame and pity:  he was the first man she had seen naked after her husband and he was so well equipped for life that he seemed abnormal”.  Ursula speaks to a woman who knows how to read the future in cards and Ursula confides in her that she thinks it’s unnatural and the woman responds it doesn’t mean that at all, just that he’ll be very lucky.

Aureliano is a bit…psychic.  When he is born, he is born with his eyes wide open, and then examined everything with a “fearless curiousity”, then concentrated on the palm roof.

“Ursula did not remember the intensity of that look again until one day when little Aureliano, at the age of three, went into the kitchen at the moment she was taking a pot of boiling soup from the stove and putting it on the table.  The child, preplexed, said from the doorway, “It’s going to spill.”.  The pot was firmly placed in the center of the table, but just as soon as the child made his announcement, it began an unmistakable movement toward the edge, as if impelled by some innter dynamism and it fell and broke on the floor”.

I highlighted both sons’ traits here, because throughout the following generations, their names are used numerous times and a lot of their descendants carry either the huge genital size or the psychic intensity.

However, the trait that ties all of the generations together, is the solitude in which they live.  I’m not talking about the family as a unit living in reclusive solitude as a family.  I’m also not talking about someone who walls themselves in a room in solitude and never comes out (though some of the Buendias do just that either for parts of their lives or their whole lives).  I’m talking about each of them having distance from everyone else.  Marquez begins referencing it (that I noticed) in the second half of the book when he would talk about this descendant or that and would talk about them as solitary.  That they experienced this even in the midst of being solitary.  That they were able to not do this because of being in the midst of being solitary.

One Hundred Years of Solitude has a more fantastical feel to it than Love in The Time of Cholera.  Time doesn’t pass the same sometimes.  One of Jose Sr’s mentors, an old gypsy, dies and comes back.  Another character lives to be beyond 150 years old.  One character ascends to heaven just in the middle of a normal afternoon.  Things will happen that others say never existed.

There is so much more to this book than I have explained above, and it would take ten blog entries to go into detail into every nuance of Marquez’s story.

I loved it.  That sums up pretty much how I feel about this book.  When I started writing this blog entry, and was flipping through for the parts I quoted above, I had the temptation to begin reading it again.  Within 24 hours of finishing it.  I felt like I had gotten so sucked into it that I was missing major portions of the language and the descriptions etc.

I was really excited to see John Irving had picked it.  One of my favorite books of all time is Widow For One Year by him.  He had a new one come out this year, In One Person, that I finished reading the day before I picked up this book.  I thought it was beautiful, it sucked me in and when it spit me back out, it lingered for a couple of days, and still tugs at my conscience sometimes.

If you read no other book that I’ve talked about in here since May, read this one.  It’s a different pace than a lot of novels, but it’s a translation.  Find that pace, get into the book, and enjoy.

 

 

Grimm’s Fairy Tales

This week, I am writing about Grimms Fairy Tales.  Both Alice Hoffman and James Salter listed these in their top ten.  Apparently, based on my last 3 selections, I need to read more Alice Hoffman.  I have never heard of James Salter, so went to the all knowing Wikipedia.

I will admit that I have read this before, but I think the last time I read my compilation book of them, I was around 10.  I, have of course, in the last couple of years gotten to know the sanitized versions of the tales quite well (the fallout of having a four year old daughter).

I will also admit that I have not read through all of them at this time, so I will be doing another post in a couple of days once I finish all of them.  However, I have read through enough of them that I can give opinions and the true story on some of the ones that Disney has come through and “princessed” and sanitized.  I also can talk about the viewpoint on whether they truly are too bloody for children today.

Interesting note first, the Grimm brothers first published the book of tales, marketed towards children in the early 1800s but parents complained (apparently they did that even back then) that the tales were way too violent, so years later,  the brothers released an updated version with a few of the tales “cleaned” up.  So the stories we read today as the originals actually are probably already sanitized a bit.  This doesn’t mean that they are rated G by any means.

The charges of feminism that the fairy tales paint women in a negative light, making them appear dumb and in need of someone to rescue them, isn’t necessarily all that true.  Yes, in some tales, the girl is painted as a victim who is desirous of rescue, but in others, she is quite resourceful.  I am thinking here of “The Princess in Disguise”.  Her father, the King, promises her mother, the Queen, on her deathbed that he will marry no one unless she has golden hair like the Queen and is just as beautiful.  Of course, no one fulfills these requirements.  Until his daughter reaches of age.  So, he decides he will marry her.  Even way back when the story originated (who knows when as the Grimm brothers transcribed stories), this wasn’t acceptable.  So the girl runs away.  Hunters from another kingdom find her, and she hides her identity to keep herself safe…after she has shoved 3 gowns she forced her father into making in the hopes that he will be unable to marry her and a rough cloak of skins.  She then begins to work for the cook at this castle and contrives a way to show herself as  a princess to the King and to marry him.  And she succeeds.

Of course on the flip side, we have “Snow White”, who manages to smartly convince the huntsman to let her go. (the original version has the original proclamation from the mirror to come when she was 7, the story doesn’t signify when she runs away)  She then runs away and finds the 7 Dwarves (this is pretty similiar to the Disney version so far).  However, the wicked stepmother, upon hearing from her mirror about Snow White still being alive, disguises herself and goes as a peddler woman and sells her a poisoned hair comb.  Snow White puts the comb in her hair and falls down as dead.  When the dwarves return, they notice the comb and pull it out and warn her to be extra careful as the stepmother is after her and to not answer the door to anyone.  Well, the stepmother of course notices that she is not dead and redisguises herself and goes back, this time selling corsets.  Snow White puts up a little protest but then is so overcome with need for the corsets (of her own accord, not the stepmother’s) that she allows the woman to tie one on her, and the laces are pulled too tight and she collapses.  The dwarves save her again and re-warn her.  Then comes the apple, which the stepmother has spelled to be only poisonous on one side so she is able to take a bite out of it and convince Snow White (again) that it is ok.  She then falls down.  The dwarves can’t find anything so bury her in a glass coffin due to her great beauty.  A prince comes along and is so captivated by her that he requests to carry her body back to his castle.  As servants are carrying her, the piece of apple is dislodged from her throat and THAT is what causes her return.  Not a kiss.  They do kiss, and they do live happily ever after, but the jostling of being carried over paths is what saves her.  The stepmother goes to their wedding and they had ready red hot iron shoes, which they made her dance in until she fell down dead.

But men get the same treatment in the fairy tales.  “The Skilful Huntsman” has a young man in it who receives an air gun which will not fail to hit its target.  He then deceives three giants.  He sneaks away and the princess in the castle refuses to marry the man in the King’s Guard who says he killed the 3 giants so is exiled to sell pots (this seems to be a common punishment for princesses who refuse to do the King’s bidding in the tales I’ve read).  Other stories point at men who are smart outwitting dumb men.  In Clever Gretel, the man she is a cook/serving maid for is completely dumb.

Most of the tales in the half I have read so far have someone greedy getting punished in the end.

Recently (prior to picking Grimm’s fairy tales to read and partly causing me to pick the fairy tales for my next one) I was in the library and saw the book Cinderella Ate My Daughter.  I of course, had to get it.  It’s a good read for mothers or fathers of little girls and explores the whole new movement of princesses for little girls and where that might lead.  Peggy Orenstein is a humorous and easy to read author.   She talks about the psychologist Bruno Bettelheim in regards to the original (or only slightly sanitized) tales, stating that Bettelheim says “…fairy tales and only fairy tales-as opposed to myths and legends–tap into children’s unconscious preoccupations with such knotty issues as sibling rivalry or the fear of omnivorous mother”.  Fairy tales show that those who stand fast are victorous.  Bettelheim goes so far as to say, according to Orenstein “without exposure to fairy tales a child will be emotionally stunted, unable to create a meaningful life”.  I did not read Bettelheim at all, beyond what is discussed in this book so can’t really go into depth of his viewpoints.  However, I don’t think he necessarily needs to go as far as saying any child without that exposure will be emotionally stunted.  I do know that as I read through these tales again, I remember how much I loved them as a child and why all the sanitized versions of Disney have always felt…lacking to me.  Unfortunately, Amelia (the four year old that has made me live in Disney princess land) has been a little ruined by those Disney versions and always looks a little confused when I read ones closer to the original.

Next time, I’ll go into the real stories behind some of the other sanitized versions.  Stay tuned for the parts that Disney didn’t want you to know!

 

 

Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451.

I originally had picked Middlemarch by George Eliot to use for this entry.  I was about 1/5 of the way through it on June 6th, when I happened to see that Ray Bradbury, at the age of 91 had passed away.

Instead of calling, texting, or emailing Dave, I did what any self respecting 2012 friend does.  I posted on my fb wall (timeline? what are we supposed to call it now?) about it, and that I’d be reading 451 for this entry instead.  Dave and I, being good 2012 friends, proceeded to have the entire conversation in regards to the entry right there on the wall/timeline.  Writing about this now, I find it oddly fitting that we did do that for Fahrenheit 451.

451 was listed by Alice Hoffman as her #2 book in The Top Ten.  On a weird note, I actually began listening to one of Hoffman’s books tonight while doing the dishes.

Once again, 451 (I am shortening it to this from here on, as I can sometimes get a little lazy about words like Fahrenheit), was a book I had never read.  Again, when people brought it up as a book they had read or that it was one of the greats etc, I would paste that “Oh of course I’m literate, I always have a book in my hand” look on my face while inside I would berate myself for not reading it yet.  As Dave has already read 451, I would have gotten to it, probably fairly soon to push off reading books that I don’t feel quite like I do about My Antonia (see here for a full explanation of the Willa Cather Impasse from Dave’s point of view) but don’t particularly feel like reading.

By the way, I apologize for giving all this backstory, but I find for me, the experience behind the reading interesting, so I include it all for you to enjoy (suffer) through.  Also, unlike Dave, I don’t have a personal blog at this moment so maybe I’m secretly trying to pretend I do.  Okay, back to our program.

I am going to be breaking Bradbury and Fahrenheit up into 3 blog posts, as I have become quite wordy on the whole thing, and I feel that to do Bradbury justice I _need_ to be lengthy for a memorial and also because of the comparisons between Bradbury’s “predictions” in 451 and the reality of today, to do them justice, I need three blog posts.  (sorry Dave for not discussing this with you previously).  Today’s post will be about Bradbury himself.  Tomorrow’s post will be about the plot line and my thoughts on said plot line.  Saturday’s post will be about the influence I can see of 451 on current literature today (especially in YA literature) and items Bradbury talked about in 451 that have probably an even stronger eerie resonance than they did even ten years ago.  I also will put in quotations where these things are described.

For information on Bradbury, I went straight to raybradbury.com, as that seemed the most likely place to receive information.  Bradbury, as mentioned above, was 91.  The staggering thing for me, isn’t necessarily his age, as I come from a family of long lifers and married a man from a family of long lifers, but that he was writing FOR SEVENTY YEARS.  It’s weird to see publication dates for him from the forties.  I’m not entirely sure why that bent my mind out of shape, other than maybe because it shows someone that figured out early on what made them tick, started doing it and NEVER STOPPED.  Quoting straight from raybradbury.com;

“In 2005, Bradbury published a book of essays titled Bradbury Speaks, in which he wrote: In my later years I have looked in the mirror each day and found a happy person staring back. Occasionally I wonder why I can be so happy. The answer is that every day of my life I’ve worked only for myself and for the joy that comes from writing and creating. The image in my mirror is not optimistic, but the result of optimal behavior. ”

I just think that holds so true for anyone that finds the one thing that does it for them and figures out a way to live that way.  Bradbury has won numerous awards, published over fifty books, and multitudes of short stories, but for me, the thing that makes me….proud?  happy? that a man like him lived on this earth is what he said above.

It’s sad when someone who has worked their way into our heads, into our culture and through that into our hearts dies.  I find this death more impacting to me than Michael Jackson.  Call me odd.

Coming up tomorrow! Discussion of 451’s plot and my opinions on it.

 

Wuthering Heights. A Day Late and a Dollar Short.

Up until now, Dave has been leading the way with the written words on here.  I just had the original idea and Dave helped make it happen.

Now, the reason above that I say that I am a day late and a dollar short is that Dave and I decided we would post on Wednesdays.  It is now 9:07 p.m. CST Thursday.  So, the day late.  And to round out the saying, I’m usually a dollar short on something.

Now onto Wuthering Heights!  by Emily Bronte.

I have been looking at Wuthering Heights for years, as I own an old copy of my mother’s.  I love old books, so even though I had not read it yet, I kept it on the shelf.  I kept saying I’d be reading it soon.  So, when Dave & I began this, I figured it was the perfect opportunity.  It meant I had to read it right?  The following authors listed it on their top ten.  Denise Gess, Jim Harrison, Alice Hoffman and Sue Monk Kidd.  I haven’t read Gess or Harrison, but have read both Hoffman and Kidd, and can see why Wuthering Heights would be in their top ten.  You can tell the influence the book had on both of them and their writing.

I don’t know why I’ve avoided Wuthering Heights so long.  I’ve read Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre countless times.  I think I just have heard so much about it all my life that it was sort of like “eh”.  I wanted to write about what I have always been led to believe about Wuthering Heights, and the reality that is Wuthering Heights.  Some spoilers might follow for those of you that have not yet read this book.  I feel like though, since it was published over a hundred years ago, that I won’t be ruining too much.

Belief #1:  Wuthering Heights is the towering love story of Catherine & Heathcliff

Truth #1:  Wuthering Heights is a story about Heathcliff’s revenge on Catherine and those he feels wronged either herself or himself.  Heathcliff is an orphan found by Catherine’s father.  He is brought home and raised with Catherine, her brother Hindley, and the secondary narrator of the story (the primary narrator is a tenant of Heathcliff later whom Ellen tells the story to), Ellen Dean who started as a serving girl and then became housekeeper.  The father dotes on Heathcliff, and Hindley becomes jealous.  Catherine & Heathcliff become “thick as thieves” and are never far apart.  Then Catherine’s father dies.  Hindley becomes master of the house, and right away banishes Heathcliff to a servant’s role and makes Catherine & Heathcliff’s lives hell.  Time passes.  Catherine & Heathcliff spy on their neighbors, Isabella and Edgar Linton.  They are caught and Catherine twists/breaks her ankle and must rehab at the Lintons house.  Hindley sends his wife to make her into a little lady and separate her from Heathcliff.  More time passes.  Edgar begins courting Catherine.  Catherine decides to accept Edgar’s proposal even though her soul tells her no, that she should be with Heathcliff, but he is not a “gentleman” anymore.  She is telling Ellen this, and Heathcliff overhears.  He disappears for three years and mysteriously acquires a fortune.  He returns and Edgar & Catherine are married, and happy.   She dies after blaming him for her death.  He then sets about ruining her brother, her daughter, and Edgar.  He also, to spite the Lintons, marries Edgar’s sister Isabella who leaves him and has a son after doing so.  He ends up using his son in his machinations to further his revenge.

Belief #2:  Catherine & Heathcliff are romantic.  Sooo romantic.

Truth #2:  Catherine is a spoiled little brat.  In today’s world, she’d be that girl that would say to you (usually in a bar)that they say what they think, that they don’t care what people think.  Then they proceed to insult you.  Then when you get upset, they say they warned you that they do that.  That’s Catherine in a very simplified manner.  Heathcliff is a sadist, though he says it’s revenge he wants, he gets a sick enjoyment out of the pain and misery he causes those he is revenging.  In today’s world, he’d be that vision of George W Bush that people like to sustain that he was mad at Saddam because his daddy  didn’t soundly win in 92, so he manafactured stories about weapons of mass destruction and proceeded to annihilate Iraq and eventually Hussein.  That’s Heathcliff.

I did get a couple of surprises from Wuthering Heights:

Surprise 1:  I never had heard that it’s a slightly gothic ghost story.  At the beginning, the narrator (primary) is put up for the night in Catherine’s old room.  He commences reading some of her notes and books from when she was a girl.  He falls asleep and dreams that she is knocking at the window.  It’s actually a really creepy scene, I’ll quote;

“I must stop it, nevertheless!’ I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the glass and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand”.

Creepy!

Then the end of the book (which that part, I won’t spoil as I’ve left the second half of it pretty much alone for those of you that have put off reading it as well) is really quite creepy as well.

Surprise 2:  It is so much more complex than just a story about Heathcliff and Cathy.  As I noted above, it becomes a story about Heathcliff’s revenge.  This effects more than just him and Cathy’s love.  It is so much less about love and so much more about the ripples we can all have on one another’s lives.

Surprise 3:  It is different than most books from that era I have read.  It’s more complex and deeply layered than a lot of others, including but not limited to her own sister’s book, Jane Eyre.

Surprise 4:  I think I’d like to read it again, as some of the beginning can only be truly understood after you have read the entire book.

So that’s Wuthering Heights.  Next time, I promise to be both a day on time and hopefully a dollar taller.