My rating: 5 of 5 stars
“‘What I like about you,’ she said, ‘is the serious way you make up nonsense.'” –Innocent Eréndira from, “The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Eréndira and Her Heartless Grandmother”
Eréndira’s quote is for her lover, Ulises, but it is what every reader who has ever fallen in love with Garbriel Garcia Márquez’ writing wished he or she had stated about him. For me, this quote sums up my feelings about Márquez. Whenever I pick up his texts, I prepare myself for the most serious nonsense in Literature, and I have not been disappointed.
I came across Márquez’ short stories only after reading 100 Years of Solitude some months ago, and only after reading 100 Years did I notice Márquez’ name in my Literature Anthology, Literature: A Pocket Anthology, and promptly added his short story, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” to the syllabus of my English 220: 20th Century Literature course. Unfortunately, my students were not as thrilled with Márquez as I, but my passion and interest must have been quite visible; and this is all I ask of myself in the classroom.
Since that first reading, I have re-read that story three times. The second time was out loud to a friend—the very person who ignited my interest in Márquez (she had not read any of Márquez’ short stories). And the last time was during my reading of these collected stories (I couldn’t resist reading it again). I won’t analyze each story—I’ll leave that for someone else—but I will say this: you can feel Márquez’ arc of writing as you progress through this collection. I was lost in the first 5-6 stories, comprising the first section “Eyes of A Blue Dog”. They felt like an assault on my comprehension of what a short story should be; they seemed more like very long poems or digressions. But once Márquez stories became ensconced in the locale of Macondo (the infamous city of 100 Years) with “Monologue of Isabel Watching it Rain in Macondo,” then the stories took off.
Nearly half the stories in the second section, “Big Mama’s Funeral,” touched on a minor character or unexplored theme of 100 Years, and in this section is where you can see Márquez magic realism come to life. I imagined these tales as either addendum’s or the tempered beginnings to 100 Years; and although these stories exist well upon their own, they are far richer when you are aware of the history of the town’s inhabitants.
Each story in the third section, the title story of the intro quote, is a dream. It is like a moving Picasso painting. It begins with “A Very Old Man,” which sets the reader up for intense “serious nonsense”. The next story, “The Sea of Lost Time” is absolutely magical. There is no other word for it but Magical. The cast of characters that weave in and out of these tales are simply wonderful, and like the reader, they simply must accept all fantastical things that come there way. These stories must be far less enjoyable for those who do not accept the authority of the author. If he writes that an angel appeared in this normal couple’s back yard, then it must be. It is only when the reader accepts these notions that he/she is allowed to function in Márquez’ world. Without accepting just one crazy phenomenon, then none of the others are possible; so, one must accept them all with eyes wide open and inhabit a wonderfully magical and folkloric world.