Bookending (the left one)

As I am always slightly behind with my posting schedule – and I was out the other week in a bookshop for the first time – it makes sense to mention the last haul from October before I mention that one.

There is a wonderful OXFAM shop devoted to books in Belper, if ever you are that way on in Derbyshire it’s worth checking out.  I haven’t come away disappointed yet, except for how this photo turned out but I have no time to take a new one.

The quality of the authors speaks for itself, any quibbles with that statement, please let me know.  Having finished La Bête Humaine already, with a review in the process, my quest continues with this and Nana to read all twenty books in the Rougon-Macquart series.

I picked up Márquez because it’s Márquez and I’ve gone into numerous reviews of his quality works, with a few more to come.  I’ve read most of his output so anything outstanding is really a must. Continue reading “Bookending (the left one)”


Márquez Covered

On the particular day I took this photo – as with most days in Britain – it was bleak outside, overcast, an intense cutting wind blowing as background noise.  I needed something to brighten up the day and an idea for a post as well to keep the blog ticking over.

Casting about the house I came across these colourful beauties and it took me down memory lane, remembering the jaunts in Márquez’s creations, his flair for the dramatic, and the stifling days in which so many of those memories take place.  Although whether it was the days in the book or in real life is sometimes hard to separate.

For those yet to discover the wonderful Gabriel García Márquez, I can only encourage you with some old reviews found elsewhere on this site, and with a wholehearted shove to that particular shelf in your local bookshop.  You won’t be disappointed wherever you start. Continue reading “Márquez Covered”

No One Writes to the Colonel – Gabriel García Márquez

Fridays are different. Every other day of the week, the Colonel and his ailing wife fight a constant battle against poverty and monotony, scraping together the dregs of their savings for the food and medicine that keeps them alive. But on Fridays the postman comes – and that sets a fleeting wave of hope rushing through the Colonel’s ageing heart.

For fifteen years he’s watched the mail launch come into harbour, hoping he’ll be handed an envelope containing the army pension promised to him all those years ago. Whilst he waits for the cheque, his hopes are pinned on his prize bird and the upcoming cockfighting season. But until then the bird – like the Colonel and his wife – must somehow be fed. . .

No one writes like Márquez either, so after years away from his works – apologies for such an oversight in my reading schedule – even one of his minor tales feels like a privilege to read.  This succinct story is packed full of melancholy, humanity and wonderful writing, each line seem precisely weighted for maximum enjoyment.

Waiting plays a big part throughout these pages, life is staid and conventional, poised but never moving on whilst all around ages towards the inevitable.  Will that pension ever arrive to allow living to progress again?  The limbo is palpable.

The unfair nature of so many circumstances in the novella are nothing new, especially those who despite fighting in wars are the first to be forgotten when it comes to what they are owed – even though they are afforded respect.  Márquez, however, adds to this with his sense of the bigger picture, from the inane bureaucracy of governments, the sense or lack of loyalty from neighbours, to the sheer brutal chances of life choices. Continue reading “No One Writes to the Colonel – Gabriel García Márquez”

Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel García Márquez

HoeOn the eve of his ninetieth birthday a newspaper columnist in Colombia decides to give himself ‘a night of mad love with a virgin adolescent’. But on seeing this beautiful girl he falls deeply under her spell. His love for his ‘Delgadina’ causes him to recall all the women he has paid to perform acts of love. And so the columnist realises he must chronicle the life of his heart, to offer it freely to the world. . .

There is a certain unpalatable nature to the subject matter of this book but that being said there is little in the way of vulgarity here as Márquez presents his unnamed writer as a lonely man who manages to retain the sensual in his sometimes disturbing obsessional pursuits.

One of the hallmarks of the author is his ability to mix beauty and baseness together to create something believable, yet also dramatic.  The passions of those who find themselves alone in the world, either nearing the end or just surviving are altogether more haunting than most authors usually give credit for.

The Scholar as our central character is known, shares a fascinating – and for the most part silent – language that is more about the body and its fancied properties than actual reality.   The relationship with ‘Delgadina’ is ultimately using only the inventive imagination of captivation that the unfortunate man possesses and chooses to cling to.

It is refreshing to see a character who is full of the vibrance of life and at the whim of fervour even at 90.  One who after all his experiences still finds himself as flawed as the rest of us despite years of experiencing life and learning its accumulated wisdom.  These sorts of characters have always been the forté of G.G.M making them at once sympathetic – up to a point in this case – and believable, whilst retaining a pitiful air.

Continue reading “Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Gabriel García Márquez”

Leaf Storm and Other Stories – Gabriel García Márquez

leafyDrenched by rain, the town has been decaying ever since the banana company left. Its people are sullen and bitter, so when the doctor – a foreigner who ended up the most hated man in town – dies, there is no one to mourn him. But also living in the town is the Colonel, who is bound to honour a promise made many years ago. The Colonel and his family must bury the doctor, despite the inclination of their fellow inhabitants that his corpse be forgotten and left to rot.

Márquez is a fantastic writer and I would urge all of you to pick up his works as soon as possible, in this short stories compilation, he shows both his playful and sombre sides and provides a nice mix of feelings for the reader.

Although without all those literary flourishes of his most memorable works there is still a great deal of charm and thought-provoking passages throughout these stories.  There is an atmosphere of the exotic and dramatic that soaks through the pores of this lovely little book.

The above synopsis is for the Leaf Storm, the largest story in this book and what a story!  Told through multiple narrators and starting in the middle, it is a kaleidoscope of different views, which delicately and patiently peel back the layers of this extremely immersive narrative.

Leaf Storm is set in Macondo an earthy and alive place, the setting for the complexly stratified One Hundred Years of Solitude, which will seem welcome to returning travellers who like me have lived there before.  As well as adding to the experience of the place for previous readers, it is equally welcoming to new readers as well as you don’t have to have any background to the snapshot of the town.

The interchange of characters’ perspective can be a little confusing to begin with but settles down to become a very effective way of getting a broad demographic of thought and perspective as seen through each point of view. The layering of each character’s experience and memories throughout had me changing opinions and assumptions as the story goes on, it’s always good to be kept on one’s toes. Continue reading “Leaf Storm and Other Stories – Gabriel García Márquez”

The Mole, The Astronaut and the Award(robe)

Liebster-award-ribbonAnna of the wonderfully written Ink Stains on a Reader’s blog nominated me for an award, which is the sort of thing that I don’t usually go in for these days but nonetheless thought it would be fun to answer the questions and pretend I am some sort of celebrity, which I am not…even in my own mind:

Name a piece of literature you consider the best you’ve read so far?  What an unfair first question!  I think Catch 22 is the perfect novel in terms of pacing but as to best…I don’t know Márquez, Eco, Calvino, Dickens, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky…the field of authors is tough so I will go a bit left field and plump for A Pound of Paper by John Baxter, in which he talks of his love for books, his past and obsessions.  I need to review that one sometime…it just reaffirms why so many people have a love for books.

What are the characteristics of your dream home library?   Each room except the bathroom and kitchen will be crammed full of books, haphazard books everywhere.  There will also be comic books and magazines, old papers and pamphlets and whatever else I can hoard.  There won’t be much in the way of anything else, a few tables and desk, comfy chairs and a couple of beds as well as the other necessities.  It will be a place that amazes people with its sheer number of books but will also feel comfortable and eccentric, a place you don’t want to leave regardless of whether you love books or not.  And it will have one of those ladders that you can roll around the shelves because that’s a must.

What are your favorite places for buying books?  Any second-hand book shops really, with their musty smell and hidden treasures…the more obscure the better.  If it has to be full price books, I want a place that has a diverse choice, not the usual best sellers but unexpected stuff that catches the eye and heart.

Should philosophy be taught from elementary school? Yes, I think that education needs to get back to letting children think for themselves and question…critical thinking should be standard on every curriculum, especially in this culture of dumbing down.

What does it mean to be wise? / What is wisdom?  To be wise would be to be logical but to understand that life is about more, about emotion, it is a balance, experience, perception…wisdom is an educated guess as nobody on Earth really has a clue what’s going on.
Continue reading “The Mole, The Astronaut and the Award(robe)”

My Life in Books Part Three

war and peaceCherry picking parts of my reading development is always going to be a bitty bit of business but also stimulating, allowing me to make connections between books whose impact had previously and unconsciously passed me by.  With each book read it means that my  thoughts and viewpoints are constantly in flux:

Nothing beats the feeling of reading something like Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets and feeling a huge buzz.  A buzz of learning things, understanding the world that little bit better and knowing that I can go read anything, especially the challenging books, be they intellectually or just size wise.  Which is why I went straight onto War and Peace,  1500 pages of pure awesomeness which really brings home the tiny details of this experience we label as reality,

Two parts of WaP have stayed with me since I read it six or so years ago…the image of sunlight shining through the leaves of a tree at a funeral and also a ride under the stars, neither were key events in the plot but both were delicately described and made me reread the words again .  It’s rare I get that in a book, other than Márquez, I tend not to get the urge to reread passages at length but certain ones just highlight how little we view the simple beautiful things in life.

It was somewhere around this time that the idea of blogging came to me, of talking to like minded bibliophiles and keeping a list of all the books I have read and what I thought of them (in case there is a test later on in life).  The act of blogging seemed simple…write thoughts in a generally coherent way and then launch it out into the great shout fest that is the internet.  It took me a few months to realise that it’s much more complex than that.  It’s a craft, to read, form an opinion and write a post, to put aside time to read the hard work of others..and especially to try to not obsess over the number of visitors per day. Continue reading “My Life in Books Part Three”

My Life in Books – Part One

9780140325232As a child I loved books, I collected nearly all the Famous Five books from second-hand shops at the sea-side and accumulated various classic children’s books but at around 13 I decided – as most kids do – that the books were for children (which I clearly wasn’t any longer) and that I didn’t want them any more.  Proof if ever it was needed that young persons are stupid…Its sad that it happened (especially to the bank balance in later life), but at the time, I didn’t realise what I was giving up.  After that I only read books and magazines on Football.  Exclusively in fact.  Then coming into sixth form….nothing, perhaps the odd magazine but that was it.

I’ve glossed over a lot of detail there but then came the start, the real start of my obsession.  Finishing school, with no job in the offing and time on my hands, I realised I missed the reading that I had done in sixth form English Literature classes.  After picking up the Complete Works of Shakespeare and Complete Sherlock Holmes box sets of books, I started to read like a mad ‘un.  The Holmes was set out like the original Strand newspaper was, small columns and Bible size font was the order of the day.  I had headaches for ages but I persevered and finished volume one before I was taken with a book called Heaven’s Mirror, a jaunt through pseudo history detailing theories of how ancient civilisations were connected.  I loved it, it was the first history book I had ever read and it taught me about the Precession of the stars and a lot about old cultures, it was excellent.  From there I found about German classic Parzival, as well as Plato’s Timaeus and Critias, both of which were added as well to my first ever-growing A4 page of ‘book needs’ list.

For Christmas of that long ago year (2000) I was given The Hobbit and A Test of Time, another history book, comparing a revised Egyptian chronology of kings with Biblical archaeology.  Absolutely fascinating, a challenge too, there were many names, dates and archaeological strata to get to grips with.  Funnily enough, out of the four books in the series, I have stopped circa page 180 with information overload for three of them. Oddly after reading an easier book, the information has subconsciously settled and I was able to finish the each book with no trouble. Continue reading “My Life in Books – Part One”

Booking A Trend

Book sniffing delight.

I haven’t mentioned the U.S in a while but with Christina’s timely reminder over our wanton amount of book buying, it brought back to mind this criminally half finished post that needed completing. Talking about, as it does, our copious volume purchasing adventures that eventually reached almost obscene proportions.

It’s an intimate thing as any book fan will tell you, the sharing of and buying of books for others, getting them into a book that has particularly touched you and that NEEDS to be read by everyone, in your very unbiased opinion.

For the books you keep for yourself but long to share with others, you know the ones, they have well-worn covers, the smooth nature of the words, polished by your eyes for they have been read so many times, the homely feel of them being the definitive version.  These we hoard with a worrying amount of jealousy.  Why mention them here? because we all have them and you are as guilty as me, that and I like to be fair to all sides in my musings but I digress as usual…

It is special indeed and something that e-readers can’t replicate. Couple that with the age and smell of a book and the way you see people holding a book, lovingly turning it over and flicking through pages as they tell you about it….it is indeed a magical sight to behold.

Venturing into American bookshops is a bit different from England as you would expect, firstly and I am not sure if this indicative of the US as a whole but all the bookshops had their own second hand sections, which does rob you guys over there of the joys of a whole building full of musty books, but you may have those as well, I really need to explore further. Continue reading “Booking A Trend”

The Autumn of the Patriarch – Gabriel García Márquez

gabriel-garcia-marquez-the-autumn-of-the-patriarchReading anything by Gabriel García Márquez, is always an experience and most of the time it is a grand affair, as my previous three reviews of the same author will attest, but this time, I felt The Autumn of the Patriarch lacked in some way,

The plot, centres around the isolated, and lonely figure of a dictator, who is feared and mocked in equal measure. Tracing a line throughout the despots history (the General of the Universe as he becomes known), it shows the corrupting influence of power upon the souls of the people in charge, the hypocrisy of a system hopelessly out of date and slowly dissolving in its own putrescence. It glories in the irony of the ultimately powerless dictator finally becoming just a figurehead of a nation and nothing more.  Once a hero, now just a jaded man whose public waits patiently for the end of his reign.

The usual backdrop of tangible magical realism is still palpable as well as the trademark duality of the almost surreal world of decay and miracles.  A dark atmosphere of mercenary thoughts and solitude pervading throughout making this a very brooding novel.

The wonderful soaring and sweeping of the language, the very basis of what sets Márquez apart from most other authors is still as audacious as ever:

…dishevelled by the winds of space as it left across the world a trail radiant with star debris and dawns delayed by tarry moons and ashes from the craters of oceans previous to the origins of earth time, there it is, queen, he murmured, take a good look at it for we won’t see it again for another century, and she crossed herself in terror, more beautiful than ever under the phosphorous glow of the comet, and with her head snowy from the soft drizzle of astral trash, and celestial sediment, and it was then that it happened, mother of mine, Bendición Alvarado, it happened that  Continue reading “The Autumn of the Patriarch – Gabriel García Márquez”

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