Every year I start with this story, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Originally, I thought everyone in the world should read it for the last sentence, which is the ass-kickingest last sentence you’ll read this side of Oedipus Rex. The more I’ve read, though, the more I’ve learned that some stories you like for no other reason than that they are enjoyable.More recently, once my original link to the story went missing and I had to track down another online version, I discovered that this is one of the most internet-analyzed works out there. Avoid the temptation to read anything that purports to explain this story. After all, the more you learn about Marquez, the more you’ll see the folly in “explaining” him.
The story falls into a category that category inventors have called Magic Realism. In this sub-genre, something improbable happens and the characters then find themselves bound by Aristotle’s rule of probability and necessity as they respond. But whatev.
Here’s something a writer named Aleksandr Hemon wrote in his novel, The Lazarus Project. Use it to put yourself in the right frame of mind.
I used to tell stories to Mary, stories of my childhood and immigrant adventures, stories I had picked up from other people. but I had become tired of telling them, tired of listening to them. In Chicago, I had found myself longing for the Sarajevo way of doing it – Sarajevans told stories ever aware that the listeners’ attention might flag, so they exaggerated and embellished and sometimes downright lied to keep it up. You listened, rapt, ready to laugh, indifferent to doubt or implausibility. there was a storytelling code of solidarity – you did not sabotage someone else’s narration if it was satisfying to the audience, or you could expect one of your stories to be sabotaged one day, too. Disbelief was permanently suspended, for nobody expected truth or information, just the pleasure of being in the story, and, maybe, passing it off as their own. It was different in America: the incessant perpetuation of collective fantasies makes people crave the truth and nothing but the truth – reality is the fastest American commodity.
Feel free to write about this as a final summer blog/notebook piece. Here’s a purpose question you might address: what does the story tell us about the importance, or even necessity, of story as a way of creating identity?
Feel free to post a comment below identifying which note was the most effective. I wanted to put a poll in, but I probably won’t have that skill until next week.