Sunday, March 06, 2005

...such a lonesome vocation

Writing is such a solitary profession. You spend hours a day going down on MS word, licking the square shapes of homerow with your imagination, chain smoking, trying to primp that slim sentence into linear perfection--here's one of my favorite stories about a young writer trying to make it---on his B-day no less:

It's the birthday of journalist and novelist Gabriel García Márquez, born in Aracataca, Colombia (1928). Until he was eight, Márquez was raised by his grandparents, and once said that all his writing had been inspired by the stories they told him. His grandfather was a Colonel and a liberal veteran of one of Columbia's worst civil wars. Gabriel's grandmother told him fantastic legends and tales of witches and ghosts. He became a reporter for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador and later became a foreign correspondent, traveling all over Europe and the Americas. He had published fiction already, but had long wanted to write a novel based loosely on his hometown and his memories of his grandparents. His inspiration for the book came when he realized he had to write it in the same tone of voice his grandmother used when she told stories, describing both supernatural and political events as though there was no difference between them. The style later became known as "magical realism." Once he had the idea for the book he quit his job and wrote for eighteen months, without a break, smoking six packs of cigarettes every day. To support his wife and children, he sold his car and every household appliance, and borrowed money from all his friends. When he tried to sell pieces of his wife's jewelry, many of them wedding gifts, he found out that all the gems were made of glass. By the time the book was finished, he was $10,000 in debt, nearly poisoned by nicotine, and on the edge of a mental collapse. But the book, called One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), was a best seller, and he never had to worry about money again. The novel tells the story of the Buendía family in the fictional village of Macondo and begins, "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice." This was based on a true story that his grandfather told him. Márquez is also the author of Love in the Time of Cholera (1985), a story, based on his own parents, of two old lovers reuniting after 50 years.

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