Reader Review – Love In The Time Of Cholera

I haven’t posted a reader review in a long time. Sadly, this is because very few of the books I’ve read recently made me feel strongly one way or the other. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez did… but the emotions I felt weren’t entirely positive.

To start off, it’s obvious to me that Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a very skilled writer. Yes, occasionally, he goes off on a tangent for a few pages, but the way he strings his thoughts together is very seductive. When I finished the first of the five long chapters, I would have easily given the novel an 8.75. In that chapter, he showed us a beautiful marriage that, while not always perfect, spoke volumes about the nature of human relationships. After that, it was all downhill. The writing remained stellar; the minor issue of content was the problem.

The moral of the story, as I’ve gathered, is that everyone is secretly cheating on their lovers – but that doesn’t matter, because it’s okay to love and/or sleep with more than one person. The characters were immoral, made snap decisions, were disloyal, constantly lied, and weren’t in the least bit likable. Fermina Daza, the female love interest, was shallow, cruel and, while normally very level headed, was prone to changing her mind about every aspect in her life all at once. Florentino Ariza, the male love interest, was simply a child from beginning to end.  He never took the feelings of others into account (with the exception of Fermina Daza). The only character I remotely liked was Dr. Juvenal Urbino, who I’m fairly certain was the one character who wasn’t supposed to be likable. Of course, this is all subjective. Just because I found the story to be a little offensive, doesn’t mean that it won’t sit right with other readers. I did, however, have less subjective complaints that I’d like to address.

Many things in the novel were simply never tied in. When I finished the book, I found myself wondering why we needed thirty pages describing Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, when he never appears again throughout the entire book, about what the smell of almonds has to do with love and about why, if Florentino admits to himself that he has been in love with other women, he believes Fermina Daza to be so special (especially since he knows virtually nothing about her life during their time apart)… little things like that. Yes, maybe it’s too much to ask for one single reason why the smell of almonds makes Dr. Juvenal Urbino think of love – but it is not too much to ask that our characters have reasonable motivations for their actions.

On the back of the edition that I purchased read the words: “A love story of astonishing power!” Well, I’m a fan of love stories. Joeseph Bedier’s Tristan and Iseult is one of my favorite books of all time… Love in the Time of Cholera, however, is easily the least romantic love story I’ve ever read.


! Review (theNewerYork Book IV)

Instead of reviewing a classical piece of fiction like I normally do, I decided to do something a little different this week. Through a good friend of mine, I was able to get my hands on one of the most excitingly experimental books I’ve ever read. Writing a standard review of such a strange work wouldn’t be in the spirit of the book, so I decided to dial back the words, add a few pictures and include a reading of one of my favorite (sort of) poems in the book.

Before I get into the brunt of the review, I should start by saying that this book series isn’t for everyone. In terms of word count and physical size, it’s very much on the skimpy side. The good news there is, if you really like one of the exclamation point books, you can make your experience last longer by reading the complete series. They're quite cheap, and can be read in any order without losing any story points.

When I initially began reading !, I was immediately struck by how funny it was. Everything from the first word to the last word tackled common assumptions, phrases or beliefs in a humorous way. There was even a two page (sort of) poem listing the times where it is okay to put all your eggs in one basket! Here’s page one:




Every time I flipped to another page, I never knew what to expect. There were even times when the font was upside-down, and the page number was on the wrong side, so I wound up flipping to a previous page by mistake! This is all to say that this book is extremely entertaining, witty and deeply relaxing. Reading ! was a real pleasure.



Without any further ado, I'd like to end the review with a clip of one of my favorite poem/prose hybrids in the series. Enjoy!



Reader Review - Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston lingered, unread, on my booklist for well over a year. The title immediately grabbed me, but there were a couple of things that put me off. Firstly, every modern copy of this book comes with something like four introductions and two afterwords. This made me feel like there wasn’t enough “real” words to put into the story, so the publisher decided to insert analytical essays to make more money each time the book hit print. While I do believe that this is what the publisher intended, I found there was more than enough meat in this novel to make it a worthwhile read. Secondly, somewhere down the line I began to view it as a “culture book.” Zora Hurston was a black writer who wrote a book about black life in the early 1900s. It was easy for me to assume that the book didn’t need to be well written – the strong impact of writing about black life in the late 30s would supersede the need for good prose… Upon finally finishing the book, I simply can’t believe that I put it off for so long.

Early on, I noticed that the dialogue didn’t match the descriptions. At first I found it very off-putting. The descriptions are beautiful and flowing, while the dialogue is filled with rough dialects and, initially, was extremely hard to read. The first bit of description in the novel reads, “Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men.” The first bit of dialogue reads, “What she doin’ coming back her in dem overalls? Can’t she find no dress to put on?–Where’s dat blue satin dress she left here in?–Where all dat money her husband took and died and left her?” The contrast is obvious, and exceedingly important. A common theme throughout the book is that, while the blacks in that time were uneducated, they still had deep souls, and were just as capable as anyone else of understanding the depth that life has to offer. I came to greatly enjoy this contrast throughout the book. What’s more, the dialogue that, at first, was extremely difficult to read, became completely natural. It is my humble opinion that it rivaled anything that Steinbeck produced in both authenticity and readability.

The characters, Janie in particular, were authentic and complex. Hurston didn’t hide any part of society at that time to skew the story in her own political directions. She wrote truthfully about a generation once removed from slavery – their foibles and fortes; their dreads and their dreams. Janie’s evolution throughout the novel was a joy to see. Slowly, she breaks away from what was considered to be acceptable in black society at that time and discovers who she is outside of her social identity as a black woman at the turn of the 20th century.

The themes are powerful and vast. Zora didn’t shy away from any topic! One of her more powerful minor characters is Mrs. Turner, a black woman who hates the blackness in herself and in others. She dresses like a white woman would, talks down to blacks in much the same way, and supplicates herself to anyone, regardless of race, who looks whiter than she is. A running theme in the book, as shown through the residents of the town of Eatonville and through Mrs. Turner’s character, is that black society was partially responsible for keeping itself in a supplicant position… This is a risky theme even in modern day, but I’m sure it was shocking when the novel was released in 1937. Personally, I found these themes to be sadly haunting and profoundly human. The repression of a people for so long couldn’t be without consequences.

Let me clear on another point as well: this is not a black book. This is a human book. It is about how we as a people let our fears get the better of us, and it is a book about the many shapes of love. Janie’s relationships with her grandma, and her first and second husband hold the novel together as she discovers her own capacity to love in the midst of a very strenuous time in American history.

“[L]ove ain’t somethin’ lak uh grindstone dat’s de same thing everywhere and do de same thing tuh everything it touch. Love is lak de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”