Monday, February 21, 2011

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez

One Hundred Years of SolitudeOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The writing is so beautiful. I love magical realism done well, and I think this is the best version of magical realism I've read. I also love sweeping fictional family histories.

My biggest complaint is the characters. The matriarch Ursula is a fully formed character and really the heroine of the book. Her daughter Amaranta is a spectacularly strange villain, and her son Colonel Aureliano is at least multi-faceted. Most of the other characters fall flat for me and not just because of the repeat names. I went through quite a bit of trouble to keep them straight in my mind but most of them just had shadows of personalities. For example, who is Santa Sofia, really? She barely gets involved with her bizarre daughter Remedios the beauty and doesn't react when her daughter ascends into heaven? Who is Jose Arcadio Segundo besides someone who resembles Aureliano Segundo?

But I do also object to the repeat names. It is a common Hispanic naming convention to name a son for his father and even a daughter for her mother, but this often remedied by an aggressive use of middle names and nicknames, such as when Renata Remedios (who actually does have a unique name) goes by Meme instead.

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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with MorrieTuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Some people are really tough on this book because it's "cheesy," but that doesn't mean it's necessarily wrong. It asks an important question and tries to answer it. If the answers are in reality somewhat cheesy, that's not Morrie or Mitch Albom's fault. Also, it's so sad. If you read it without crying you should investigate if you're actually a cyborg.

Morrie is an exceptional former professor dying of ALS and Albom is having a weekly conversation with him about the meaning of life.

There are 14 Tuesdays:
(1) Experiencing and caring about the world and the world's sadness;
(2) Self-pity- limit it to a few minutes a day;
(3) Regrets? This chapter and the ones after it just cover Morrie's sad childhood, ending in the idea that he would never do any work that exploited other;
(4) The main premise of this book: that if you "learn how to die" then you can learn how to live. To Morrie this means being less ambitious and being more "spiritual," something he doesn't fully define but seems to involve appreciating nature and gratitude in general;
(5) Family, particularly immediate family, and especially having children, is more important than money, fame, ambition;
(6) Experiencing then detaching from particular emotions. the description is similar to descriptions of experiencing consciousness in meditation;
(7) Fear of aging- Morrie discusses the joy of being taken care of, and the joy of having already lived through the previous ages and having love and affection;
(8) Money- Wanting excessive amounts of money or material things is an expression of loneliness and lack of love. What's valuable is volunteering to help to help to people;
(9) Be fully present with the person that you're with, pay attention;
(10) A good marriage is extremely valuable;
(11) People are more alike than they realize, and we all need each other. Morrie recommends creating your own culture around you with people focused on the things that matter;
(12) Forgive yourself before you die, then forgive others;
(13) Acceptance of death, appreciating your body, focusing on love, responsibility, spirituality, and awareness;
(14) Saying goodbye. This one is treated lightly, but in reality, if you've experienced the death of a loved one, this one is actually very difficult. You can be a caretaker and be present and still fail to really say goodbye because it's so difficult.

When Albom asks Morrie what he would do with one more healthy day he describes a day of family and friends, delicious food, and walking in nature. Food made the top three!

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