Sunday, March 12, 2006

"Living to Tell the Tale" Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Well, I finally finished it. I got maybe 1/6th of the way through it before the reading required for my second semester of University required me to put it down to read the works whose priority came first. Then, I had to finish reading the big batch of Warner books sent to me to be reviewed by The Green Man Review. I sent in a whopping number of four reviews, for Last Sons, Mystic Empire, Those Who Walk In Darkness, and What Fire Cannot Burn, and they all got published to day at I highly recommend you read them.

So anyway, back to Living to Tell the Tale: My Nana bought it for me for Christmas, because I'd asked for autobiographies or memoirs of writers. Gabriel Garcia Marquez won a Nobel Prize for literature, so what better memoir, right? Hmmm...

He uses this technique of magical realism, and sometimes it works, but for the most part it allows for some bizarre turns of phrase that make absolutely no sense when translated from Spanish into English. He also has an enormous family of parents, grandparents (from both sides), siblings, illegitimate half-siblings, cousins, and about a hundred friends from the numerous schools, colleges, and magazines he worked for/studied at. All of them with long, intricate Spanish names, all the time, all repeated in their entirety, to the point where I mentally skipped over them because it took too much time for my brain to try and pronounce them while simultaneously trying to remember who they were.

I got the gist of his life, but I wasn't too fond of his writing style, although I can relate to some of his writing troubles. As he describes himself, Gabriel Garcia Marquez was cripplingly shy and timid, and was prone to thinking his better stories were pieces of crap as well as to certain periods of writing laziness where he'd send in mediocre pieces to his editors and watch as they tore them up (literally) in public. He also was, and apparently remains, a horrible speller, which seems ridiculous to me considering the amount of books he's claimed to have read.

I'm surprised that, given his self-proclaimed timidity, how he managed to garner a career in the writing business, but then again, I'm not exactly the most confident individual in person, either. I don't hate my work (at least initially - when I read it back it's f'ing brilliant, man!), but most of the writing that's received the most attention (from CBC, who asked me to send over some pieces to consider hiring me into a focus group to help write a teen-oriented sketch comedy show, who contacted me in February 2005, and whose show has not been able to become a reality due to the CBC radio strike and a general lack of interest and funding; and from SEE Magazine, whose editor read my articles, thought I wrote a good lead, and commisioned me to write an interview for photographer William Jans and a movie review for The Shaggy Dog) has never seemed to me to be my best work. I want to be a novelist for a living, not a journalist, but it's my nonfiction work that apparently catches the eye.

So I can relate, somewhat, to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but I haven't read any of his work (other than a short story "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings"), and the enormous amount of detail, backstory, superstition, and mythology he puts into the book makes it nigh incoherent.

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