Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Literary Snobbery Series

The LSS Book List, Part 6

Visit the The LSS Book List page for more information about this post.


No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

No One Writes to the Colonel (El coronel no tiene quien le escriba) and Other Stories by Gabriel García Márquez (1961, M) – GGM is famous for magical realism, but that doesn’t mean that he’s only as good as One Hundred Years of Solitude. Try this collection of realist short stories (no insomniac towns, traveling blood, or women rising up to the heavens above) and you’ll realize that the man is indeed a master of the written word. The last story can’t help

Noli Me Tángere by José Rizal

Noli Me Tángere by José Rizal

Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not) by José Rizal (1887, H) – I had a little trouble with this entry because this is required reading in Philippine high schools. But this isn’t internationally popular like those European or Latin American or Japanese novels. And how about reading this for pleasure and in a translation other than Filipino (in my case, English)? Or better yet, how about in Spanish?

Number9Dream by David Mitchell

Number9Dream by David Mitchell

Number9Dream by David Mitchell (2001, M) – Eiji Miyake has never met his father. He goes on a journey to come to good terms with his past. This coming of age novel intersperses reality with fantasy. Plot narration is interwoven with journal entries and children’s stories. Any David Mitchell novel would perfectly fit on this list, but there’s an added bonus for this book: you’d find yourself humming “Was it all a dream, it seems so real to me….”

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald

Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald (1979, H) – A small, tightly knit community of people living on boats. People who don’t belong to the land or to the sea. People who are displaced. It’s a short novel that packs a wallop, like a tidal wave arriving so suddenly and leaving you rather senseless on a shore of awe.

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich (Odin den’ Ivana Denisovicha) by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1962, L) – A prison novel that shows us the daily humdrum in the life of the eponymous character. From day to night, the reader gets a tour of what’s it like to work in frigid temperatures with stomachs fed only by stale bread and tepid soup. This is a tale of the human spirit’s resilience despite the seemingly insurmountable adversities minus the melodrama.

A Personal Matter by Kenzaburō Ōe

A Personal Matter by Kenzaburō Ōe

A Personal Matter (Kojinteki na taiken) by Kenzaburō Ōe (1964, H) – Bird is about to be a father. When his son is finally born, he finds out that the infant is severely deformed. He runs away from the responsibility of raising the child. He loses his job, wastes himself on alcohol, revives an affair with a former lover, and spirals down to the abyss of his unknown dark self. This is made of pretty strong stuff and is a definite representative of great Japanese literature.

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek

The Piano Teacher (Die Klavierspielerin) by Elfriede Jelinek (1983, H) – Erika Kohut teaches the piano at the Vienna Conservatory. She is strict, austere, and rather conservative. But that’s just the surface. When she is left to herself, outside the circle of music teachers and students, she goes to peep shows and seeks to rebel. She writes a long letter to one of her students, telling him of her masochistic desires. Pornographic or not, the tension it gives the reader is worth the time.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion (1970, M) – Maria Wyeth is a so-so actress who is now recovering in a mental institution. The novel is made up of short chapters as if they were snippets of conversations or flashes of memory. Decadence surrounds Maria, and this doesn’t help as she spirals down to her breakdown. What is her purpose? Don’t ask.

Possession by A. S. Byatt

Possession by A. S. Byatt

Possession by A. S. Byatt (1990, L) – What would this list be if there were no entry about literary scholars researching the private lives of literary heroes? Present day academicians Roland and Maud discover a seemingly innocuous letter that leads them to unearth the secret love affair between Victorian poets Randolph Henry Ash and Christabel LaMotte. This is a real thrill of a literary mystery, replete with all the requisite Victorian poetry.

Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow (1975, L) – A big novel with at least three plot lines, this is a fun book where you get to see historical figures from the 1900s interact with fictional characters. There’s Houdini meditating on his fame, JP Morgan being told off by Henry Ford, Freud and Jung in Coney Island, and more. It almost resists interpretation and this is why it’s irresistible.

Stay tuned for Part 7.

Format: [Title] ([Original Title]) by [Author] ([Publication Year, LSS Meter Level])


This is part of the Literary Snobbery Series (LSS).

Books to Read: August 2013

Books to Read: August 2013

I do not know if it would make any sense to post a reading plan for this month because I have only finished one book for July and I am only adding one new entry. Shame, shame. But for the sake of keeping up with this monthly post, here we go.

The Left Stack (books I want to read soon and books I need to read soon):

  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – from June.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – from July.
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – from May.
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes – from May.
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – from July.
  • Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – from July.
  • Tall Story by Candy Gourlay – our book of the month.
  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver – from July.

The Right Stack (books I have finished and books I have yet to finish):

  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – from June. Currently on page 191.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – from May. Currently on page 258.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – from January. Currently on page 359.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez – from July. 3 out of 5 stars.

I have to confess something. I am not good at reading multiple books concurrently. So what I intend to do is that I’m going to finish all the books that I am currently reading. Yes, that includes Les Miserables. It’s most likely that you’ll see the same set of books every first of the month, unless I manage to finish all of them this month. Then I’ll go back to monogamous reading.

And yeah, I’ll be on vacation next week. I am not going anywhere though; it’s just that I managed to get a short break before I start on my new job. If you really want to know, tomorrow is going to be my last day with my current employer. At the moment of typing, the music blasting from my earphones is Keane’s Leaving So Soon; I’ve been here for 25 months. It was fun, but I think I should try doing something else.

Anyway, the short interim period gives me time to finish Great Expectations and to catch up on Infinite Jest (and Les Miserables). I am excited to just lie on my bed and read and reset myself.

F2F19: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

TFG’s Book of the Month for July: Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez

Love in the Time of Cholera Face to Face Book Discussion Details:

  • Date: July 27, 2013
  • Place: Gayuma ni Maria, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City
  • Time: 3 PM to 7 PM
  • Discussion Leaders: Bennard and Rhena
  • Attendees: Me, Aaron, Aldrin (with girlfriend May), Alexa, Berna, Camille, Cary, Chika, Emir, Gay (newbie), Ingrid, JL, Mae, Mavic, Monique, Patrick, Pauline (my first recruit; with Alyanna), Ranee, SherylTina, Veronica, Ycel
  • Food I Ate: Please Be Careful with My Heart (baked chicken with lemon and garlic), Beats Sex Anyday (chocolate cake), I Love My Banana (banana cake), Twisted Pavlova (I stole bites of the three cakes from my seatmates)
  • Post-discussion Activity: Sharing of short anecdotes about love. Enough said.
  • After the Book Discussion: Bookay-Ukay, then dinner and beer at Tomato Kick.
  • Other Nominated Books: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss and The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
Discussion Time

Discussion Time


Thoughts from the Members:

[From Anna:]

What I love about this book is its ability to establish the love story, without having the romantic lines. I hate romance books. Love can be everywhere. But this is the most seductive and sensual book I ever read.

[From Camille:]

The characters are shown in such a unique light, so much that their personalities are so intense, they almost seem to be talking to you off-page. Ariza himself is not shown as an angelic fairytale prince; rather, he is shown as a man who, though loyal and true, has within him faults, mistakes and failures. (Let us also not forget that Fermina Daza, the woman he loves so dearly, had looked at him with disdain and disgust at more than one point of her life, due to his physical attributes.)

[From Marian:]

I liked how Marquez was able to portray the frame of thought of different people from widows, old maids, wives & whores. How these women cope with their tragedies and triumph, the naughty thoughts they bear beneath those compassionate faces. But how come, Marquez has less thoughts from a male perspective? As I can remember with all of his male character, it was only Florentino who had elaborate thoughts..and it made him look weak and helpless. Florentino IS the damsel in distress.

[From Monique:]

The love story of Florentino and Fermina is one that will forever be remembered, the perfect novel to illustrate “fate” and “destiny”. I appreciate this book so much more than “100 Years of Solitude” not because this is a love story, but because it was a much more compelling read. Years after I first read this book, I can still imagine the central characters and the unfolding of their story.

[From Ranee:]

This book is set in the majestic backdrop of the Carribean and the change it had to endure in those 50 years. It places us in that period where revolution was everywhere. It reeked with deaths found in the mountains by militant men who talks of war when the battle was really about not respecting each other’s opinions and in the sewers because the people only know of trash but not of sanitation. But the city was also the scene of the greatest lover of its time. Marquez has a penchant for such livid words that could infect his readers to either fall in love with his characters or hate them. His formula for this story, even if it was set in a different period is still relevant in this day and age. He was able to show the ability of a civilization to change the topography of its city, to bring in culture with its art and music. And, he was also able to show that civilization may be detrimental to its natural fauna and flora. But above all,he was able to show the tenacity of people to fall in love in all circumstances, may it be constructive or destructive.

My thoughts to follow.

The Attendees of F2F19

The Attendees of F2F19

Photos courtesy of Pauline.

Books to Read: July 2013

Books to Read: July 2013

Here are my July reading plans and my June accomplishment report:

The Left Stack (books I want to read soon and books I need to read soon):

  • The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis – from June.
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss – it almost won the book of the month for our book club.
  • House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski – from May.
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez – our book of the month.
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes – from May.
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan – I want to read something short.
  • Steps by Jerzy Kosinski – this is another short work, which resembles a collection of short stories.
  • Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? by Raymond Carver – a legit collection of short stories.

The Right Stack (books I have finished and books I have yet to finish):

  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald – from June. 3 out of 5 stars.
  • Dom Casmurro by Machado de Assis – from May. 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – from June. Currently on page 96.
  • Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace – from May. Currently on page 240.
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – from January. Currently on page 359.
  • Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata – from June. 3 out of 5 stars.
  • This Is Water by David Foster Wallace – from June. 5 out of 5 stars.
No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Unmagical Realism – No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories consists of one novella, which is the title story, and eight other ones. These are dense with the seemingly insignificant lives of people living in a South American village. The unnamed villagers, each portrayed separately among the stories, are portrayed as despondent people who could either be hanging on to hope or resigned to utter hopelessness. After every story, the mood seems to get bleaker, but the compassionate writing of one of South America’s best writers makes the reader go until the end.


Readers familiar with the Nobel laureate’s books, particularly One Hundred Years of Solitude, will find this a strange departure from the regular Marquez oeuvre. Elements from the school of magic realism are rarely found and, in fact, only present in one of the stories. Readers who are looking for those must prepare themselves to prevent disappointment, but this collection will not go as far as that.

Cross out magic and you get realism. People and places are depicted as they are seen by the naked eye. In fact, the reader could perspire with the characters as they walk around the town under the sweltering heat of the sun, not to mention the pangs of hunger that they try to ignore and the troubles that tug their hearts.

The postmaster delivered his mail. He put the rest in the bag and closed it again. The doctor got ready to read two personal letters, but before tearing open the envelopes he looked at the colonel. Then he looked at the postmaster.

“Nothing for the colonel?”

The colonel was terrified. The postmaster tossed the bag onto his shoulder, got off the platform, and replied without turning his head:

“No one writes to the colonel.”

Most of the stories deal with people struggling through lives strained by poverty. The characters’ situations are both touching and funny wherein the former is considered with a heavy sigh as the last trace of smirk is gone from the reader’s face. Consider an unlicensed dentist extracting the tooth of another without anesthesia in One of These Days. Consider a man stealing billiard balls for nothing in There Are No Thieves in This Town. Consider a man giving away an ornate bird-cage that’s supposed to bring food to their tables in Balthazar’s Marvelous Afternoon. Consider a priest repetitively saying that he has seen the devil in One Day After Saturday.

[It was a lower wisdom tooth. The dentist spread his feet and grasped the tooth with the hot forceps. The Mayor seized the arms of the chair, braced his feet with all his strength, and felt an icy void in his kidneys, but didn’t make a sound. The dentist moved only his wrist. Without rancor, rather with a bitter tenderness, he said:

“Now you’ll pay for our twenty dead men.”]

There is dark humor bubbling at the surface of each, but as we digest each story, we dissect the characters to a get a taste of the intentions behind the things that they do. In my favorite story here, One of These Days, the patient who gets the painful extraction is a corrupt government official. He intimidates the dentist into taking out the rotten tooth despite the latter’s efforts to hide from him. He does so, but not without vengeance. No anesthesia due to an abscess. He proceeds to pull the tooth out of the official’s mouth with a silent aggression that screams of triumph.

In a book discussion that I attended for this, it was pointed out that the pulling of the rotten tooth is a metaphor for the wiping out of corruption through quiet violence. It could be, and that is the beauty of it. One can interpret the actions of Marquez’s characters in many ways and no one will be incorrect.

And this story is just four pages long.

[“It’s a sin to take the food out of our mouths to give it to a rooster.”

The colonel wiped her forehead with the sheet.

“Nobody dies in three months.”

“And what do we eat in the meantime?” the woman asked.

“I don’t know,” the colonel said. “But if we were going to die of hunger, we would have died already.”]

In the title story, the colonel patiently waits for his pension for a decade and a half. He keeps visiting the post office for any letter from the government only to come back to his wife empty-handed. They have nothing; they even pretend to cook by boiling stones just to the neighbors wouldn’t find out that they do not have anything to eat.

But they do have a rooster. The colonel starves himself and his wife just so the rooster could eat. They wage everything on that rooster; who knows it might bring them a lot of money on an auspicious day in a cockfight. But there are mouths to feed and health problems to treat. What are they going to do? What are they going to eat?

The story was inspired from the writer’s grandfather, a colonel who also never received any pension. It was also boldly published shortly after the civil war in Colombia between the 1940s and 1950s. The political turmoil going on in the country is reflected in this collection; fragments of a corrupt government are depicted on the pages. In the last story, Big Mama’s Funeral, people clean up the garbage off the streets right after Big Mama, an absolute power, was buried. This collection will remind people to keep sweeping away any trash on the streets.


Dates Read: November 20 to 24, 2012

No. of Pages: 170

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars