In some parts of the world, readers are so familiar, so comfortable with the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez that they feel as though they know him. They refer to him affectionately as “Gabo.” They talk about his characters as if they are old friends, and they refer to Macondo (the fictional setting of his most famous novel One Hundred Years of Solitude) as a real place. Gabo is considered required reading.
There are certain circles in the US where he is just as well known, though the attitude toward him and his work is…different. There seem to be two camps. There are those who revere him as some sort of literary genius and speak of him in reverent tones. There are also those who do not understand what all the fuss is about. Or they hear the words “Magical Realism” and get really nervous. While that may be what Gabo is most known for, it is not the only thing he does. It’s not even what he’s best at. Start with something that is not Magical Realism and work your way up to something that is. Here are a few recommendations:
This novella, published in 2004, is the most recent work of fiction from Garcia Marquez, though reports (from October 2010) indicate that he has a new novel in the works. The work centers on a man who is celebrating his 90th birthday and decides that, to celebrate the occasion, he wants to have sex with a virgin. The most fantastical element of the whole story is the age difference, and Gabo handles that with the requisite humor. Some people do miss out on the humor, though; the book was banned in Iran.
This beautiful novel was, unfortunately, adapted into a not-so beautiful movie in 2007. The story is about a love triangle. A young woman, Fermina, gives up on her passionate first love with Florentino Ariza in favor of the more sensible love offered by Juvenal Urbino. Florentino is forced to love her from afar and spends the years trying to find her replacement. The couple spend 50 years apart, with only the occasional pleasantry exchanged in the street. It is a typical love story told in an atypical way.
This is my favorite book of all time. As such, I’m fairly certain that anything I write here will amount to little more than fan-girl gushing. I will, however, take a moment to say that the magic that makes some people uncomfortable is handled in such a way that the reader almost doesn’t notice it. That’s how it is supposed to work, and that is how it works here. Ice is one of the world’s great oddities. Flying carpets are an acceptable form of transportation. And that’s okay.