Dedicated to classics and hits.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Love in the Time of Cholera (1985) by Gabriela Garcia Marquez

Image result for love in the time of cholera florentino ariza
Javier Bardem played Florentino Ariza in the 1997 movie version of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Book Review
Love in the Time of Cholera (1985)
by Gabriela Garcia Marquez

  Those looking for another classic falling under the description of "magical realism" are sure to be disappointed with Love in the Time of Cholera, one of Garcia-Marquez's post Nobel Prize for Literature winning efforts.  What it must be like to win the Nobel Prize in the middle of one's literary career.  Of course, the Nobel Prize for Literature can't be awarded posthumously, so every recipient is living and in some way benefits from the win, but Marquez really sealed his reputation as an international author of the first rank

  More-or-less explictly set in his native Columbia, Love in the Time of Cholera is a more personal work than One Hundred Years of Solitude.  One Hundred Years of Solitude maintains a quasi-mythic tone (one which became synonymous with magical realism) which is largely absent from Cholera. Although Cholera is set almost entirely in the 20th century, the major characters have attitudes which seem drawn from the prior centuries of literature, specifcally the 18th century idea of "sensibility" and 19th century ideas about romanticism. Florentino Ariza, Marquez's hear sick protagonist, is both hero and villain, not in the sense of an "anti-hero" but in the sense of someone who does good and bad.

  Cholera is very much about romantic love, and concerns itself largely of the impact of romantic love unrequited.  

Monday, March 20, 2017

Contact (1985) by Carl Sagan

Jody Foster played Dr. Eleanor Arroway in the movie version of Contact by Carl Sagan.
Book Review
Contact (1985)
by Carl Sagan

    Is it possible that Contact, the achingly dull science fiction classic by Carl Sagan, is not just a charter member of the 1001 Books list but also a core title, one that has not been removed at any point?  Yes.  It is more than possible, it is a true fact.   I will grant that it has maintained it's relevant- just take a look at two recent "serious" science fiction films with the same theme: Arrival, starring Amy Adams, and Interstellar, with Matthew McConaughey.   Both films echo important parts of Contact so concretely that it almost seems like an "inspired by" would be required for both films.

   At the same time, it's not exactly a book that people really read anymore.  The Jody Foster starring film version in the 1990's gave it a bump, but as of 2017 Contact, with it's Cold War milieu and pre-Internet technology, seems more like alternate history a la Man in the High Castle than science fiction.

   For those unfamiliar with the basic premise, the Jody Foster character is an astronomer working on the SETI (Search for extraterrestrial intelligence) project when a message is detected.  Much of the novel involves decoding the message, followed by the construction of a machine specified by the decoded message.  As the title promises, Contact ensues, though it is the kind of anti-climax that one might expect from the real world, not science fiction.

   Like many notable science fiction authors, Sagan is no prose stylist. Even judge by those standards, the resulting pages, especially the exposition heavy conversational dialog.  Sagan's obsession with the relationship between science and religion is understandable, but it doesn't make for compelling fiction, in my opinion.   I suppose you could argue that Sagan earns his place by authoring the first "Hard" Science Fiction, a genre which has increasingly led the charge for genre fiction to be taken seriously as literature, or at least as a major inspiration for scientific and popular culture. 

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985) by Jeanette Winterson

Book Review
Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit (1985)
 by Jeanette Winterson

  "Flannery O'Connor if she was a Evangelical Pentecostal from the English Midlands;" is as apt a description as I can imagine for Jeanette Winterson's lesbian coming-of-age novel.  The comparison doesn't track all the way to the station: O'Connor didn't write about herself, and Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is about as thinly veiled fiction as I can imagine,  Winterson was actually raised by Evangelical Pentecostal's in the English Midlands (she was adopted.)

  Her coming of age novel has a mix of familiar LGBTQ tropes (now, not in 1985) and outre behavior from Winterson's adoptive Mother, a highly religious woman equally devoted to judging others and her adoptive daughter.  Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit eschews explicit sex, and doesn't contain anything beyond explicit descriptions of hell-fire to trouble sensitive souls.

  Alas, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit was a victim of the initial 2008 revision of the 1001 Books list, making Winterson not just a one hit wonder, but also a one and done, for the purposes of the 1001 Books project.

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