Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Guest Review: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Family in Cartagena, Colombia, c. 1930, via
Reviewed by Arminda!
Combine a dash of determination with a twist of opinionated, a heaping scoop of energy and mix vigorously, while slowly adding to this combination equal parts writer, actor, swing dancer, chef and mom. Fold in laughter, happiness, originality and a great book, and your concoction will resemble Arminda, whose passions are varied, but her focus to accomplish much never wains. Through her food blog www.yumveg.com she strives to make whole food, plant-based eating accessible to everyone, and when she just feels like rambling she dumps those thoughts onto www.allarminda.com, where it's all Arminda, all the time. Twitter handles for each, respectively, are @yumveg and @allarminda.

Published: 1988

It's about: Two young people, Florentino and Fermina, fall desperately in love with one another through letters they exchange and furtive glances they make at one another across the park, and eventually decide to marry. Their plans are thwarted by Fermina's father, and while she moves on with her life and marries another, the anguished Florentino channels his heartbreak into a lifelong obsession with other women, hundreds of other women, yet reserves his heart for Fermina. After the death of Fermina's husband, some fifty-one years later, Florentino declares his love again.

I thought: This book, and author, come highly recommended, and Love in the Time of Cholera is the winner of the Nobel Prize. What greater endorsement can you possibly have than that? If the criteria for winning this most-revered literary prize is to have "produced 'in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction, (source Wikipedia)'" then let's just say I thought the direction was kind of creepy. Young lover, desperate from his broken heart, turns obsessive stalker, turns womanizer, turns pedophile, all the while claiming a virgin heart for his one true love? And this is okay with everyone?

I want to be clear that I thought the writing was lyrically beautiful, and the character development was remarkable. I have rarely felt so connected with the inner feelings of two characters as I did with Florentino and Fermina, and the beautiful imagery and lives painted by Mr. Marquez's exceptional command of the English language. But can we fairly separate the characters from their actions from their thoughts from the plot from its message? To attempt to do so would be no different than when someone says they love a song for its beat, but pay no attention to its lyrics. Yet this book is heralded as one of the greatest love stories of all time.

I'll leave Newsweek's review of "A love story of astonishing power," to Newsweek, because I have a hard time celebrating, honoring and revering the "ideal direction" for which this novel has received literature's highest honor. I can't get on that band wagon.

Verdict: In Between - I'm really torn over the separation of music and lyrics. The writing is scrumptiously beautiful, but I don't endorse the behavior of the main character.

Reading Recommendations:  This book is heralded by many many people as one of the greatest ever written. It's an Oprah's Book Club selection, among other ringing endorsements. I'd love to know your thoughts if you've read it.

Warnings:  Well, there's LOTS of sex, sexual references, and even an affair with a child.

What I'm reading next: The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon