Friday, April 25, 2014

Adiós, Maestro

I feel as though any words I write about the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez will seem cheap compared to the brilliant writers who have been writing, posting, and offering their thoughts regarding this great mind.

I will not do the "internet familiarity" thing and speak as though I know him.  This is another way to cheapen Marquez's work.  Instead, I want to take a moment and thank Gabriel Garcia Marquez for teaching me to take creativity to another level.

My first Marquez novel was One Hundred Years of Solitude.  This was my first experience with magical realism, although I felt I had already been living it.  To me, as a seventeen-year-old aspiring writer, there was one way to write about magic:  fantasy novels (I consumed them as a teen - I think Mercedes Lackey and Patricia C. Wrede helped me navigate the first two years of high school).   I didn't think one could juxtapose magical elements into a "traditional" piece of fiction.  Marquez had handed me a gift.  A very pretty gift, wrapped in phoenix feathers, sprinkled with fairy dust, and delivered in a basket on my front porch, probably from the Easter bunny, or some reading fairy who knew I needed this novel (reaffirming my theory that books show up when you need them most).

After One Hundred Years of Solitude came Love in the Time of Cholera, next Chronicle of a Death Foretold...years later I became an English professor and began to assign "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings."  My students think I'm crazy, but they always leave class excited, as though they discovered some sort of literary treasure. And they did, in a way - Marquez just provided the map.

My obsession with surrealism and magical realism grew with Francesa Lia Block's novels, Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow (BEST opening line ever: "A screaming comes across the sky"), Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie, and Don DeLillo.  Even when I read Jorge Luis Borge, I thought of Marquez and my first experience with magical realism.  The stories one could tell, the stories one could read - and it all came down to imagination.  REAL imagination - the kind they try to remove from you in your early years.  It is one thing to be imaginative; this is the purpose for innovation. But it's another to consider what trees would say if they talked or to imagine Mack Trucks as dragons (I said this once to a friend and she told me that was a "bit odd" and shouldn't repeat that).  It was okay to be weird, as long as one was brave enough to stand behind your words.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez was that brave, and he taught me to be that brave.

Like other literary greats, Marquez was good for sound bites, but for those who read his books, they became a battle cry.

Señor Marquez, thank you for your imagination.  Thank you for teaching us to think beyond the mundane.  And thank you for inspiring the rest of us.  Que tu biblioteca en el cielo se llena de libros.
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