M?rquez Sends Judy Reene Singer Back in Time
Close your eyes.
Think back to your childhood.
Think back to that exquisite moment just before you begin to play. That moment
of decision, when you sift through your imagination, picking through all the
possibilities, feeling that soaring rise of the infinite, that dazzling sense
of vast horizons and boundless subjects, all yours to choose from.
You turn over each choice in your mind. Do you want to roam through space
with Captain Kirk and exterminate hostile aliens? Turn your bathrobe into a
cape and become a superhero? Ride a horse across the skies? Incredible moments,
those, when you could choose from anything. Anything at all.
Of course, we grow up. There's that common reality-thing we have to maintain.
Invisible friends desert us. The tooth fairy is put to rest. Playtime gets restricted
and mostly forgotten. We get high schooled and colleged; we get careered; we
develop relationships. And rules, like spider webs, descend, and constrict our
wild, free imaginings. You absolutely cannot be Godzilla roaring across the
backyard or dance on the moon, ever again.
It was quite by accident that, about six years ago, I stumbled upon a remarkable
book, One Hundred
Years of Solitude by Gabriel
Garc?a M?rquez. I had read some of his work in college, but for some reason,
I shuffled through it, not realizing that what I was reading was both seminal
and liberating. Reading it again, years later as a fiction writer, was like
draining a glass of intoxicating wine and heaving the glass against a great
mental wall. Rules went shattering every which way, taking the wall with it.
My old childhood feeling came back. That delicious sense that anything was
possible. In fact, desirable. I reveled in M?rquez's freedom, his unfettered
imagination. I loved his deadpan humor, not the punch line kind, mind you, just
his overall amusement with mankind's foibles. His free wheeling combination
of myth and dream and fantasy brought my consciousness to a new level, and I
realized, with awe, that when you start writing, anything can be possible. Anything.
M?rquez creates Macondo, a mythical little town, planted deep in the jungle,
whose history and timeline goes both forward and back, curling itself into curious
circles. Each event reflects the development and behavior of the outer world,
delineating the slow march from innocence to corruption, from a simple life
to complex. It is an epic novel, superbly crafted and imbued with philosophy.
It's strikingly funny, but it's more than a comic novel. There is an underlying
sadness, a sense of futility that runs through its astounding narrative. His
townspeople are plagued: they forget who they are and what they've done within
minutes of doing things, a reminder perhaps, that we are nothing without our
memories, and foolish to forget our history. They hang a sign on Main Street
that says, "God Exists." A reminder to those that might forget even this.
The book focuses mostly on Jos? Arcadio Buend?a, founder of the town, and
family patriarch, who purchases all sorts of seemingly useless inventions, ice,
magnets, photography, which are brought to the town from time to time, by Melqu?ades,
a gypsy. Except that each purchase and Buend?a's misguided experiments gives
rise to not only his town's advancement but its downfall. His moral transgression
drives his family towards the fulfillment of their unfortunate destiny.
This is a book to be savored, read slowly, and then reread. You can marvel
at the complexity of the sentences that are written in simple but luminous language,
or the brilliant combination of dreamy elements that constantly violate the
rules of the real world. You may disagree with its fatalism, but you will not
escape its gorgeous delivery. It is a perfectly written book.
And so I read it, with increasing wonder and enjoyment, letting it take me
back to that glorious time in my childhood when anything could be possible.
And that's a great place to be.
Judy Reene Singer
A former high school English teacher with graduate degrees in psychology,
Judy Reene Singer has been in love with horses since childhood. She has covered
the equestrian world for more than a decade, writing for Dressage Today, Horseplay, and The Chronicle of the Horse, which named her a top feature writer in
1996. Her experience with horses ranges from saddle breaking to riding Grand
Prix Dressage. She rides and writes in Orange County, New York.