you are a forest of wonder but when somebody wanders through, you feel
hurt if they fail to see every single tree. you who have never bothered
to name things scream beech pine fir needles stump! and they say it is
nice to be in the forest, with the dappled light and the quiet, it is
so peaceful, and your fingers jab at their stupid ears that have missed
you make dinner and when they eat it they are thinking of your
fingers in their mouths, nurture and exploration, and your head
explodes because excuse me i have to do the dishes too. you would like
to be evaluated for who you are but you get upset if someone fails to notice what you do.
you are made of your actions, each action a playing card
carefully balanced to build a house that is structurally sound and
visually pleasing, and with your sense of humor you've balanced the
jack of hearts against the seven of cups but not everyone is such a
connoisseur. another word for connoisseur is snob. you alert them to your
pinch of cinnamon and they say mmm and you're angry for the cinnamon
not being acknowledged, and they're confounded because what do you
want, are they not eating, contentedly rubbing their bellies, catlike
stretched to bask in the wonder of being full of things you made that
they can't be bothered to name. another word for can't be bothered is lazy.
it is hard to understand that people can be happy without being
able to name their happiness but then you cried for three straight
hours and couldn't say why so don't get too high on the horse is all
i'm saying. it's quite a fall from a horse. more than a tumble in the
hay. it is hard to not be pissed at the blind person who doesn't see
what a good colorer you are. it is hard to remember that you decided to
color inside the lines because it pleases you; it is hard to remember
that they are your lines. there are people who draw freehand.
don't mean you're wrong. for the love of all things sweet don't start
crying again. i mean that you don't look at a picasso and say nice use
of blue. well, you might say
that. other people are saying words like form, fluid movement, abyss of
pain. naturally ideally one could say all those things. i mean: there
are things that are wrong and there are things that cannot be fixed and
you would do well to keep your forest lovely because it's in your
nature, to balance the cards because it feels like success, to color
within the lines because it pleases you, and to maybe stop talking
about art and just look at it. you can spend enough energy keeping
control over the things you actually can, make your charts and lists
and rationales, stock up on tissues, live through this. but not if you
try to blame it on other people.
I'm still reading Love in the Time of Cholera. I was going to finish it before I went to Greece but then I took on this textbook editing project (editing by hand! Totally quaint! Fortunately I remember most of the proofreader's marks so it's okay... but it does interfere with my pleasure reading).
Anyway. I thought I didn't like Marquez because I really didn't much like 100 Years of Solitude; I've never really been able to get behind magic realism. I love long meandering stories, I like a touch of the absurd, I like the idea that reality is in fact pretty flexible, but magic realism is the potato salad of literature: I love all the ingredients, I hate the result. Other than a weak spot for Tom Robbins, which he's doing his level best to eliminate, I really have never gotten the point of magic realism.
So I never bothered to read any more of Marquez's work, because, you know, why. You don't keep picking up Raymond Chandler if you don't like hardboiled detective stories. But then here I am with ...Cholera and I'm reading it and I'm enjoying it and yet there is something in it that nags at me and I tried to explain this over beer last night and I thought I'd try again over coffee.
I really don't do well with adjectives deployed to describe characters. I need to be given actions and allowed to locate my own adjectives. And I've noticed this with Kundera, too, and it's why I have trouble with him, and why I have trouble with Klima, and why so many books that are otherwise delightful to me wind up flung across the room as if they were Hemingway clones (really, really hate Hemingway clones. Not a big fan of Hemingway either, but glah, the clones). I do not want to hear "she was a fierce woman" or "he was a man of firm principles" -- I want to know how she's fierce, what principles are firm. I think that this is why, ultimately, I find Kundera's characters (and am now finding the ones in Cholera) to be so unbelievable: because it seems these adjectives mean something different to me than they do to the authors, and so then the actions that are shown make no sense. I have noticed this problem with my friends, too, that the ones who tell me stories of "he did this and this" are the ones I can listen to for hours, but the ones who tell me "he is cruel" are the phone calls I have trouble returning.
I also have, and I realize this is a personal thing, trouble liking characters who leave their children. I will never, ever like Anna Karenina, although I've given it almost as many attempts as I have Lolita (another book I can never like, I finally realized after several miserable rides through Nabokov's hideous sea. I concede that the man can write words, sentences, paragraphs, but I can't stay in a boat with someone who hates his main character) and my conclusion is the same: I don't like Anna and I can't like that book. And I can't like Fermina now and I don't know if that's going to ruin the book for me, but between the adjectives, which are on a steady rise here at page 270, and the fact that things appear to be boarding a hot air balloon of unreality without showing any signs of actually cutting the ropes and soaring away... well, I don't know. You don't get a lot of first sentences better than "The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love," and it's not as if I'm not going to finish or that I'm going to hurl the book from me or anything but I'm a little frustrated.
And I wanted to talk about something other than my shameful craving for Ronald McDonald and the Deathly Hallows.
Anemone, you told me, and then hyacinth,orchid,peony; like any parent you wanted me to know the names of things; to be informed. "Flowers!" I answered, bored. I was more interested in the holes left by my ruthless bouquets. Already I was not meant for your world.
We can blame the man, because it's easy. Who doesn't blame men, wanting more than they deserve: wanting something bright against their endless darkness a pretty girl with a wilted bunch of flowers; wanting for a moment to put out his hand and touch something that didn't belong to him.
But I also took what didn't belong to me. I wasn't hungry and I wasn't really curious and I wasn't even exactly bored. I tasted the bitter red juice and I was fiercely happy. I still am.
Mother! to the extent I am responsible for your unhappiness, I am sorry. But you would not have wanted me in your world always you would not have wanted me to stay with you anyway.