Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera

Florentino Ariza falls in love with Fermina Daza and against the wish of her father, they are engaged. But at a whim, she calls off the marriage and later marries Juvenal Urbino, a distinguished doctor in the city. For fifty-three years, while Florentino rises through the ranks to become the President of the Caribbean Riverboat Company and takes on more lovers than he could count, he waits to possess Fermina, hoping Dr. Urbino would die before him or her. When the doctors dies, he arrives at her house at the age of seventy-eight and proclaims his love for her. And he wins her over and takes her on a voyage that he doesn’t intend to return.

Love in the Time of Cholera is a tale of carnal love in the early twentieth century Columbia. In a time of epidemics and revolutions, when life was as fleeting as the wind, passion seems more certain than tomorrow. Only Swann’s obsession with Odette—In Search of Lost Time—could match Florentino’s with Fermina. But as much as the premise of the novel is intriguing, I enjoy Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s prose much more than the plot or the characters. His writing creates a dream-like world where the sights, sounds and smells become mesmerizing. A world far away brought back through the magic of words into the reader’s imagination.

Brando Skyhorse's The Madonnas of Echo Park

The Madonnas of Echo Park tells the stories of Mexicans who struggle through their daily lives in Echo Park, a section of Los Angeles. The book starts with "We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours," and ends with "This is the land that we dream of, the land that belongs to us again." A summary of the characters' attitudes toward the land they love and struggle to claim as their home.

Echo Park (Photo by User2004 at Wikimedia Common)

For a migrant worker, "I have no heartbreaking story of the journey here; the heartbreaking journey is here, in this small couple of square miles of land called Echo Park." And for the bus driver, "America is there for the taking if you aren't lazy and have no qualms about the kind if work you do." Succinct descriptions of their lives in the United States. They are among those who know that life is tough but also that America is the land of opportunities.

At the same time, Skyhorse shows his witticism when he said, through another character that "Catholicism gives everyone something to feel ashamed about." And the lady of the house spoke broken English to the maid, believing the latter doesn't understand a word. When in fact the maid understands the mistress and was learning English through her daughter. These bits of humor modulate the gravity of the subject matter.

Through the book, Mr. Skyhorse gives voice to the voiceless and shapes to the invisible. And he fills the writing with insights into the dynamics between these invisible people and the country that they seek to claim as home.

The Possibility of an Island: Michel Houellebecq's The Brave New World

Book Review of The Possibility of an Island

The species have reached immortality. Through cloning and the propagation of historical memories. But the time of the humans is over. It is the age of the neo-humans, clones without joy and grief, without neurosis, without community, without sexual desires. Only a lifetime of reviewing and of analyzing the life of the human from which their DNA came. A lifetime of isolation, except for a pet. A lifetime of pseudo-touch through electronic communications. A lifetime of reflection and contemplation.

When the grief, the denial, the struggle to remain virile and attractive dominated the aging man or woman, the life of the neo-human seemed heavenly.  And no wonder the creator of these neo-humans chose to eliminate the neurosis associated with aging.

Neo-humans live without joy; and they die without grief. They don’t need food, only minerals and water. A superior race more suitable for survival. Living in a post-apocalyptic world. What does it mean when a few decided to leave their isolation, to end their immortality, to trek across the dried ocean surface, in search of a legendary community?

Would you choose to be human or neo-human?

The Possibility of an Island is a sad, sad depiction of the possibility, or impossibility, of humanity. Without youth and sexual virility, what is man or woman? When our mind and body decline, what do we make of life? Is a lifetime of tranquility more preferable to the fluctuations between joy and grief? What kind of Omega Point are we moving toward?

Call It Sleep: The Immigrant Experience

In Call It Sleep, David Schearl, the son of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, straddles between his Yiddish background and the American culture. The dialogues in the novel—Yiddish written in prose and English in dialect—highlight the clash and synthesis of the two worlds. It is the essential immigrant experience, to straddle between two cultures, to struggle with identity, and ultimately to reconcile and integrate the two into a new creation.

Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been a microcosm of the “melting pot” where Jews, Irish, Italians, Greeks, Chinese, Puerto Ricans and Russians mingle and yet retain their unique identities. Often, second and third generations move to more affluent neighborhoods, but this place remains “ground zero” for the dynamics of cultural synthesis. Henry Roth in Call It Sleep gives a glimpse of that cultural dynamics for the Jewish community. An essential novel for the immigrant experience.

A Brief History of Time Review

In A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking presents contemporary cosmology to the lay readers, describing the concepts of quantum mechanics and general relativity without the equations for probability waves or differential geometry. Even the student of physics may find the account interesting, and grasps the theories intuitively rather than mathematically.

Space-Time Fabric

The Big Bang Theory and the inflationary universe form the basis for exploring the frontiers of cosmology. And the search for a quantum theory of general relativity becomes the cosmologists’ goal to understand black holes, which will give insight into the nanoseconds during the Big Bang. Perhaps in understanding that period of time, physicists may unify the forces of nature and formulate The Theory of Everything.

Black Hole

Though we can find these cosmological concepts and theories in books and journals, Hawking presents them without all the mathematical hocus-pocus, so common men and women will understand the ideas behind the equations. Sure, there are some scientific jargons but they don’t overwhelm. And though the ideas have evolved since the book was published, the concepts provide the basis for understanding the challenges confronting cosmologists. I recommend the book for those who want a basic understanding of cosmology minus the differential equations and singularity points.