WWW Wednesdays

shouldbereading.wordpress.com asks three questions every week for WWW Wednesdays.  Check out the blog for MizB’s responses.  I think it’s a good, quick way to keep readers updated on what’s going on in my reading world.  Here are my answers:

What are you currently reading?  Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  After so many encouraging words about the book and great reviews, I had to start it.  And, it’s been an awesome read so far.  Also, I’m on page 130 of 229 in The Power of Now.  I love the book and the concepts presented – I just find I need time to really absorb it.

What did you recently finish?   Love in the Time of Cholera by Garbriel Garcia Marquez.  Check out review HERE.

What do you think you’ll read next?  I hope to continue with Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

Wanna play along?  Reply with your answers or answer them at shouldbereading.wordpress.com

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

courtesy: silverseason.wordpress.com

Summer Read #1 Complete! Woo-hoo!  And, another Back to the Classics Challenge 2012 novel read.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez makes writing feel so damn easy!  He swept me up in romance and love, and shook me with his portrayal of aging.  Do you expect anything less from a Nobel Prize winning author?

In the beginning, the romance between Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza draws sympathy.  It is understandable why an illegitimate poor boy wouldn’t dare approach a young lady of the upper class in a time where class lines were strictly adhered to.  I felt sorry for Florentino Ariza, and though aware of the plot, a tiny part of me still hoped that they could a find a way to make their love work.  Fermina Daza comes to understand that she does not have the power to fight social norms and marries a rich, respectable doctor.  That should’ve been the end, right?  Nope.

Florentino Ariza becomes an astute stalker.  He keeps his distance, but is always aware of Fermina Daza’s life – which is not difficult since she and her husband, Dr. Juvenal Urbino, are at the forefront of their social class.  In the meantime, Florentino Ariza improves his social station and while maintaining his love for Fermina, and other women.

This guy is unbelievable!  He is so desperate for the love of one woman that he spends his life feeding off the emotions and bodies of other women. He satiates his body and claims to love the women he is with, yet lives under the illusion that his one true love is, Fermina Daza.  His goal is to outlive her husband so they can finally be together.

courtesy: thenouveaushanty.wordpress.com

**spoiler alert in next paragraph** (might wanna skip this paragraph if you want to read the novel)

Most of his exploits are ironically charming.  However, there are two occasions when I found him utterly revolting.  The first time involves the murder of one of his mistresses by her husband upon discovering her infidelity.  The second is when, in pedophile fashion, he grooms and courts his fourteen year-old relative.  He was in his sixties.  I was flabbergasted that his appetite had no limit and so disgusted.  How f*****g dare he???  And, he actually convinces himself that he loves her in order to alleviate his guilt.  Ugh.

One other thing that left me disconcerted: the reaction of Florentino Ariza’s many lovers.  Almost all of them were dying of love for him.  He had 622 sexual liaisons…and nearly none of them were left scorned.  Almost any one of them would gladly receive him back into her bed.  Even the teenager…Were they that weak?  Are we that weak, that a few romantic words will have us on our back and eradicate our common sense?  I don’t think so.  In this case I beg to differ with Garcia Marquez’s choices in his portrayal of women.

Then again, perhaps this is all a part of the use of magic realism.  Reality that is distorted…or, perhaps, reality that is real and makes us so uncomfortable that we need to label it as distorted…

The few women of strength in the novel were those that did not sleep with him: his mother, Transito Ariza; Fermina Daza (who succumbs in her seventies); and, Leona Cassiani, his assistant.  They were great characters of intelligence, fortitude and pride.  Interesting that he only preys on the weak.  Even with Fermina Daza, he wins her over when she is in mourning for the loss of her husband…

courtesy: the secondgreenrevolution.

In any case, this is a sweeping look at a country and a city during a time of great change.  I loved reading all about the geography of Colombia and talking to my mother about the places that are mentioned in the book.  The effects of the many wars suffered by the country at the hands of the Liberals and Conservatives made me think of stories of my grandfather and uncle having to leave home in the middle of the night to hide in the mountains because the Conservatives were raiding for Liberals, while my grandmother huddled in a room with her five daughters (one of them, my mother) praying for their safety.  A frightening and violent time.

Love in the Time of Cholera challenged my views on love, sexuality, aging and brought to life many moments in Colombian and world history.  It is eloquent, simple, honest and its characters are richly textured.  Definitely a worthy read.

What novels have you read that stayed with you and challenged you?

Is Aging Really That Bad?

We live in a youth-obsessed world.  Young matters.  Age matters.  We want to look 25 when we’re 30 and didn’t you know, 50 is the new 40.

I used to think I would grow old gracefully.  I scoffed at the idea of botox, peels or any other treatment for my face…because I had the face of youth.  Now, as I mature, I realize my opinions on these matters are changing…maybe one day I will be willing to sacrifice the use of my eyebrows for a smooth forehead or the width of my smile for smooth cheeks and expressionless eyes…maybe not.

But, aging is not an issue only of the surface.  It goes deep.  Deep into our muscles, bones, synapses, memories…and plays evil tricks.

I wasn’t expecting for so much of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera to focus so much on aging, what we feel as we age, what we fear and how it affects us.  Here are some passages on aging in the book:

“…men blossomed in a kind of autumnal youth, they seemed more dignified with their first gray hairs, they became witty and seductive, above all in the eyes of young women while their withered wives had to clutch at their arms so as not to trip over their own shadows.” (256)  The double-standard of aging – men get better with age, women don’t – was alive and well in the era of the book’s story (turn of last century).  Age is not wise, revered or well worn.  It is cruel and burdensome, especially for women.

“A few years later, however, the husbands fell without warning down the precipice of humiliating aging in body and soul, and then it was their wives who recovered and had to lead them by the arm as if they were blind men on charity…” (256)  Any advantage men have over women is yanked away quickly, according to this novel, and they are cruelly left with a decrepit body.  Age makes you dependent upon another.

“Florentino Ariza had seen himself reflected so often in that mirror that he was never as afraid of death as he was of reaching that humiliating age when he would have to be led on a woman’s arm.” (257) All sense of free will, self-sufficiency is lost.

Have I thoroughly depressed you yet?  I’m depressed…if that’s where I’m headed then bring on the botox!  (At least I’ll be wrinkle free when I’m tripping over my own shadow).

Seriously though, I wasn’t expecting this kind of portrayal about aging…the last novel I read about an old woman was Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel – and, for all it’s literary merits, it pretty much killed any interest I had in an older protagonist.  Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business shows the aging of characters – but, more of the psychological effect that our youth has on our old age.  This novel describes the the fear of physical aging and it makes sense since it is about (a supposed) love that lasts half a century (more or less).

Old age consumes bodies and minds…but, in none of these characters, does it consume their spirit.

Fermina Daza remains honourable, rigid, enraged.  Dr. Juvenal Urbino is true to his meticulous perfectionism.  Florentino Ariza devotes himself to love in any form.

Age might do away with who we are physically, but isn’t it the spirit that matters most?

What are your views on aging?  Have you come across any characters that have challenged those views for you?

WWW Wednesdays

shouldbereading.wordpress.com asks three questions every week for WWW Wednesdays.  Check out the blog for MizB’s responses.  I think it’s a good, quick way to keep readers updated on what’s going on in my reading world.  Here are my answers:

What are you currently reading? I’m on page 278 of 348 of Love in the Time of Cholera by Garbriel Garcia Marquez.  Summer reads #1 is almost finished.  It started slow, really picked up with the romance – and then, “real life” hit.  The romance was over.  All that was left was characters trying to live their life…with the exception of Florentino Ariza…a man on the prowl trying to forget the love of his life, Fermina Daza.  Nonetheless, great reading.

What did you recently finish? Marking English exams

What do you think you’ll read next?I hope to continue with Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys and Graceling by Kristin Cashore.  Cross off one more Classic and read something contemporary and fun.

Wanna play along?  Reply with your answers to these questions or answer them at shouldbereading.wordpress.com

Addicted to Love in the Time of Cholera

(image courtesy: silverthreads.wordpress.com)

I’m  on page 184 of 348, and while the book is taking a turn I had not anticipated – Florentino Ariza is an absolue slime ball masking his sliminess with vast, romantic notions of love – it is still the finest piece of writing ever.  So fine in fact, (I am paraphrasing an esteemed colleague here), that we are almost convinced that Florenino Ariza truly acts out of love, not lust.

It is my humble opinion that in the history of writing, Garcia Marquez is untouchable. Here are a few of my favourite quotes so far:

She prayed to God to give him at least a moment so that he would not go without knowing how much she had loved him despite all their doubts, and she felt an irresistable longing to begin life with him over again so that they could say what they had left unsaid and do everything right that they had done badly in the past.” (47) An eloquent reminder of the regrets one holds when faced with the death of a loved one.

“…many years later, as he was combing his hair in front of the mirror, and only then did he understand that a man knows that he is growing old because he begins to look like his father.” (170) A bitter sweet moment…especially if your father (or, mother) did not grow old gracefully.

“It was in this innocent way that Florentino Ariza began his secret life as a solitary hunter.” (56) He is a hunter of women and his intention is to submerge his obssessive love for Fermin Daza with sexual liasons and relationships (note: all sexual encounters are mutually consented).  That really should’ve been my first cue that this guy was a creep.

“…when she was almost one hundred years old, they found [Hildebranda’s photo] locked in the bedroom closet hidden among the folds of perfumed sheets…Fermina Daza kept her [photo] on the first page of a family album, then it disappeared without anyone’s knowing how, or when, and came into the possession of Florentino Ariza, through a series of unbelievable coincidences…” (134) A simple observation of what happens to our most prized possessions – photos that hold memories of a better time.  They are hidden and discovered after we die or we lose them and they travel into other hands…it’s like a little part of us is in those photos that disappear…such a simple concept: the destination of a photograph, given such importance.

I also love the magic realism…the magic mixed in with he real….I could write a quote from every page that exemplifies good writing, but that would be outrageous…a little obsessive, perhaps.

If you’re reading this novel, or have read it, what were your favourite parts?  Do you have an author that you just love and could quote from every page?