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WEEKLY REVIEW, MAY 17, 2009


Gabriel García Márquez

A Life

Written by Gerald Martin

García Márquez's story is a remarkable one. Born in 1927, raised by grandparents and a clutch of aunts in a small backwater town in Colombia, the shy, intelligent boy matured into a reserved young man, first working as a provincial journalist and later as a foreign correspondent, whose years of obscurity came to an end when, at the age of forty, hepublished the novel entitled Cien años de soledad - One Hundred Years of Solitude. g Within months, the book had garnered spectacular international acclaim, the author hailed as the standard-bearer of a new literature: magical realism. Eight years later, in 1975, he published The Autumn of the Patriarch, and, in 1981, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, each novel rapturously received by critics and readers alike. With his books read by millions around the world, he had become a man of wealth and influence. Yet, for all his fame, he never lost touch with his roots: though he had lived outside of Colombia since 1955-in Barcelona, Mexico City, Paris-his Nobel Prize was celebrated by Colombians from all walks of life who thought, and still think, of "Gabo" as their own. More books followed, both fiction (Love in the Time of Cholera, The General in his Labyrinth, Memories of My Melancholy Whores) and nonfiction (The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor, News of a Kidnapping, Living to Tell the Tale). But García Márquez's renown and passion have continued to combine, as well, in a fervent, unflagging, and often controversial political and social activism.

While chronicling the particulars of the life, Gerald Martin also considers the overarching issues: the tension between García Márquez's celebrity and his quest for literary quality, and between his politics and his writing; the seductions of power, solitude, and love. He explores the contrast between the exuberance of the writer's Caribbean background and the authoritarianism of highland Bogotá, showing us how these differences are manifest in his writing and in the very shape his life has taken. He explores the melding of experience and imagination in García Márquez's fiction, and he examines the writer's reasons for-and the public's reaction to-his turning away in the 1980s from the magical realism that had brought him international renown, toward the greater simplicity that would mark his work beginning with Love in the Time of Cholera.

Gerald Martin has written a superb biography: richly illuminating, as gripping as any of Gabriel García Márquez's powerful journalism, as enthralling as any of his acclaimed and beloved fiction.



25 Intriguing Facts About GGM from Gabriel García Márquez: A Life by Gerald Martin



1. He did not "know" his mother until he was 7 years old.

2. His mother had 11 children and his father 15 (four out of wedlock).

3. He said that after his grandfather died when he was a boy, "nothing else of importance ever happened to me."

4. He was born in Aracataca because his grandfather killed a man in a gunfight and fled to this new town, taking his daughter, García Márquez's mother, with him.

5. He was reared in a world of spirits, constructed by his grandmother, which conflicted in his mind with the rationalism of his grandfather.

6. He showed early talent as painter, singer, and writer; could probably have made a career as any of these.

7. He was a scholarship boy and shone in every school he studied in; yet always wanted to escape from school and be a writer.

8. He regularly traveled to school on a river steamer up the great Magdalena river to the capital Bogotá.

9. When the Colombian capital Bogotá was sacked in 1948 both he and his future friend Fidel Castro were present and witnessed the events.

10. Even on the tropical Colombian coast he was famous for his wildly colored shirts and yellow socks; he dressed in a garish fashion to conceal his poverty.

11. In Barranquilla he worked as a journalist and in order to save money lived for a year in a brothel nicknamed the "Skyscraper." In Paris he was for a time reduced to eating scraps.

12. His mother declared, after he won the Nobel Prize, that her greatest source of pride was "having a daughter who is a nun." When he won the prize she was quoted as saying, "Maybe now I'll get my telephone fixed."

13. In his early years as a writer Faulkner and Hemingway were his two favorites.

14. He always seemed to know how to coincide with where things were happening: Bogotá during the Bogotazo, Caracas when the dictator Pérez Jiménez was overthrown, Paris during the Algerian crisis, Havana during the first days of the Revolution, New York during the Bay of Pigs invasion, etc.

15. Like Dante, he decided to marry his future wife Mercedes when she was nine, "a little girl with ducks on her dress," and proposed when she was fourteen; eventually he married her when she was 26 and he was 31 and they are still married today.

16. He won the Nobel Prize in 1982 and received it from the King of Sweden in a Latin American peasant outfit called a liquiliqui ; his great moment was accompanied by 60 Colombian dancers and singers in the Stockholm town hall.

17. He has managed to maintain the friendship and esteem of the King of Spain, Bill Clinton, Big Businessmen, and Fidel Castro.

18. He has 7 houses in 4 countries.

19. He has founded major institutes of film (in Havana) and journalism (in Cartagena, Colombia).

20. He has a yellow rose or tulip on his writing desk each day.

21. He is intensely superstitious and never wears gold.

22. He smoked 60 cigarettes a day until he was almost 50 and has survived two cancers.

23. One of his sons is a successful graphic artist and the other is a highly respected film maker in Los Angeles who has worked on the Sopranos , Six Feet Under and many other TV shows and movies.

24. Most of his novels have been filmed but he has always refused to let One Hundred Years of Solitude be turned into a movie. "They would cast someone like Robert Redford and most of us do not have relatives who look like Robert Redford."

25. He says he prefers women to men, saying: "I feel safer with women."


REVIEWS

"The gift of Gabo"

The Guardian

by Christopher Tayler

This fairly long book - a scaled-down version of an even longer one, Gerald Martin reveals - begins with an appropriately large claim about its subject. Martin thinks that Gabriel García Márquez might be the only novelist from the second half of the last century who's as respected all over the world as the giants of the first half. This initially seems like routine biographer's hype. By the time Martin has finished detailing the awe-inspiring extent of García Márquez's renown, it seems more like English understatement...Read all>>>


Ted Kennedy

The Dream That Never Died

Written by Edward Klein
 

Ted Kennedy  
In the most inspiring speech of his career, Ted Kennedy once vowed: "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Unlike his martyred brothers, John and Robert, whose lives were cut off before the promise of a better future could be realized, Ted lived long enough to make many promises come true.
 

During a career that spanned an astonishing half-century, he put his imprint on every major piece of progressive legislation-from health care and education to civil rights.

There were times during that career-such as after the incident in Chappaquiddick-when Ted seemed to have surrendered to his demons. But there were other times-after one of his inspiring speeches on the floor of the Senate, for example-when he was compared to Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John Calhoun, and other great lawmakers of the past.

Indeed, for most of his life, Ted Kennedy played a kaleidoscope of roles-from destructive thrill seeker to constructive lawmaker; from straying husband to devoted father and uncle. In Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died, celebrated Kennedy biographer Edward Klein at last reconciles these contradictions, painting a stunningly original, up-to-the-moment portrait of Ted Kennedy and his remarkable late-in-life redemption.

Drawing on a vast store of original research and unprecedented access to Ted Kennedy's political associates, friends, and family, Klein takes the reader behind the scenes to reveal many secrets. Among them:

. Why Caroline Kennedy, at Ted's urging, aspired to fill the New York Senate vacancy but then suddenly and unexpectedly withdrew her candidacy.
. How Ted ended his longest-lasting romantic relationship to marry Victoria Reggie, and the unexpected effect that union had on his personal and political redemption.
. What transpired between the parents of Mary Jo Kopechne and Ted Kennedy during two private meetings at Ted's home.
. Which feuds are likely to erupt within the Kennedy family in the wake of Ted's demise, and what will become of Ted's fortune and political legacy.

Ted Kennedy: The Dream That Never Died does not shrink from portraying the erratic side of Ted Kennedy and his former wife, Joan. But both in spirit and tone, it is a compassionate celebration of a complex man who, in the winter of his life, summoned the best in himself to come to the aid of his troubled nation.


An excerpt from the book in Vanity Fair
 

It started as a fairly typical day for Ted Kennedy. Early in the morning on Saturday, May 17, 2008, his Portuguese water dogs, Sunny and Splash, bounced into his bedroom and woke him up. Groggy but obliging, Kennedy swung his legs over the side of the bed and, struggling against age and gravity, lifted himself to an erect position-or as nearly erect as his old bones would allow. He threw on some warm clothing, then headed out the door into the chill, salty air for a stroll on the beach with the dogs... Read all >>>

 

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