What Would You Not Read Again?

I posted recently on our “Books and Brownies” gathering where we all shared books we enjoyed reading that had profoundly shaped our lives. I read a post today in Book Riot that proposed the opposite sort of gathering where they talked about “What Not to Read“. The idea was to get together to talk about at least one book they hated that they would try to talk others out of reading. The basic rules were to be ruthless toward the book but civil toward each other (some others present might like what you hate!). Needless to say, animated but enjoyable discussion among booklovers followed.

I’d love to hear what my readers would nominate as their worst books. If I get a list, I will do a future post. Include your reasons.

Mine would be Gabriel Garcia Marquez One Hundred Years of Solitude. Lots of people with the same name, the bizarre world of magical realism, and decadent sex, all of which seemed to go on interminably. But I gather it is supposed to be brilliant social commentary on Latin American history. Here is a link to my recent review.

My wife nominates George Eliot’s Mill on the Floss. In her words, “never read something where the person is getting paid by the word.”

So what are your nominees for “What Not to Read”?

Review: One Hundred Years of Solitude

One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have friends who truly think this is an amazing book. You have to help me. Just not sure I get it. No, it isn’t the magical realism thing. I get that and got used to crazy things like insomnia plagues, gypsies with flying carpets, children being carried away with the laundry. Garcia Marquez definitely has a creative imagination!

The story in brief centers around the mythical town of Macondo, somewhere in Latin America, settled by people escaping Western colonialists. They were led by Jose Arcadio Buendia and his cousin-wife Ursula. Much of the plot focuses around the decadence of this inbred, incestuous family who keep breeding sons named Jose Arcadio or Aureliano. At one point there are even 17 Aurelianos who are all systematically hunted down and killed as the government tries to snuff out the revolutionary movement led by Colonel Aureliano Buendia. From a glorious beginning, the village and the family spiral down into insanity and decadence, abetted by the banana planters, the government executioners, and a several year monsoon that rotted everything and was followed with termites and ants who literally ate the village.

Yes, we see a chronicle of human nature, almost a second creation and fall story. We see a story of family tragedy. We see the inevitability of decline and fall in this miniature, fantastic civilization. But we also have a tawdry tale of incest, child abuse, and sexual obsession. It occurred to me that this would be a great family for Dr Phil to do an intervention with.

Yes, this is a book beautifully and imaginatively written. Yes, it exposes the dark underside of our human nature and our inability to escape our own inner demons, of ourselves. While I don’t expect serious fiction to have “they all lived happily ever after” endings and it doesn’t surprise me to see the tawdry elements of life, there is nothing elevating or ennobling about this book. It seems we are either nothing more than the sum of our physical desires, or deluded if we think there is anything more to it. There is no redemption. Religious figures are simply buffoons, other than the magician Melquiades, who, if anything simply captivates the men of this family in delusion and a fatalism that leads to their destruction.

I know this is supposed to be one of the great books of this past century. At this point, I have to admit that I am scratching my head wondering why? Maybe those of you who really loved it can illuminate me.

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