Art and Literature

03/26/16 — repeating names, everything but the kitchen sink, and the point of 100 Years of Solitude (maybe)

Dear Friends —

Huzzah! I’m about halfway through Gabriel García Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude.

As I started the book, I queried some folks over at the Magical Realism Facebook group about the novel, and while most comments were positive, one brave person said the book was just about unreadable.

I have to admit that it is a very strange story. First and foremost, the plot lines seem to repeat over and over again, with melancholy women, war-monger men,  and sex between family members while hosts of strange visitors with mechanical objects, flying carpets, bricks of gold, and pieces of ice arrive and depart in a continual, dizzying flow. Perhaps most strangely of all, many characters have the same couple of names, so that in order to keep track of who is who, I am continually going to the novel’s wikipedia page to look up the variations and remind myself of the generation that the person in question belongs to.

Given this situation, I simply have given up on the idea of reading the book quickly. I am listening to some of it on audible, and then reading the part I heard in print or doing the opposite: reading the print and then listening to the same section on audible. In this manner, quite a lot of it — if not all – is seeping into my brain.

The point of this strange structure is — I think — its attempt to mirror — albeit oddly and indirectly — what our own experience of our lives might be. I don’t know about you, but I often feel that I am running into the same weird problems and the same annoying people over and over again. And politically, things here in the U.S. really feel like they are on an eternal loop. Health Care problems? Again?  Must we really invade another country? Again? Didn’t we JUST do that? Promises of reform? Again?

And, didn’t I just explain to you, why I don’t want to cook tonight, and WHY are there so many men named Patrick and women named Linda where I live? (There are. It’s a bit peculiar). There is something oddly repetitive about life as we/I know it.

When something new and different happens, it’s very exciting to me.

Likewise — when a character in Marquez’s novel interrupts the ever-repeating narrative with a new observation, it stops me in my tracks. When one of the many Aureliano’s in the novel says resignedly “I see — so we are only fighting for power,” that feels like a big statement.

And it is. At those moments, the novel is shouting at us to pay attention, to make a change, to see and do things differently, and to disrupt the seemingly endless struggles that we engage in with our lovers, our families, and in and between our countries.

And that’s deep.

More, when I finish the book.

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