Monday, June 17, 2013

Book Review: El Amor en los Tiempos del Colera, or, The Hardships of Being in a Book Club

I have been told that I am opinionated. Personally, I don't see it. I consider myself passionate and have very clear likes and dislikes when it comes to books or movies or people... or pretty much everything. It's not my fault that I know what I like and can articulate my sentiments in a semi-coherent manner and can argue my point of view fervently. I mean, if that makes me opinionated then call me opinionated. Why do I bring this up? Well, it's because I have also been told that I should write reviews. I have never considered myself a critic even if I do criticize everything I come across and am very critical of the books or movies or people... or pretty much everything I run into. I have always thought that critics needed to have an above average understanding of the medium they critique in order to form a cohesive argument. Unfortunately, I have never felt that I have above average knowledge in any field so as to be a bona fide critic. This perceived inadequacy extends to the field which I love more than any other field, literature. But Carlos, you may be asking, don't you have a B.A. in English Literature? To that I respond with a definite and resounding, yet tinged with a bit of sadness, yes. Unfortunately, I have often felt my education did not provide me with enough knowledge to consider myself proficient in the world of literature. I don't think my education failed me as it provided me with the tools to attain that knowledge for myself. Unfortunately, I am not the avid reader I once was so, though the knowledge is an arm's length away as I have a bookshelf full of books I have yet to read, I have not necessarily flexed my literary muscle as of late. In order to remedy that, I joined/co-created a book club. To be honest, although I have always wanted to be in a book club, this club was the brainchild of my friend Hillary. It's a small club consisting mainly of Hillary, The Thing and yours truly. So far, we have only embarked on the reading of one book, El Amor en los Tiempos del Colera (Love in the Time of Cholera) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I probably won't write a real review of the book but I do want to mention some things that came to mind when I read it. However, I will do that later in the blog. First, I want to talk about the book club.

As I stated earlier, I have never been in a real book club before in my life. Granted, there was that small group of kids that would sit around and read during gym class in high school and called ourselves a book club, but I don't think that counts. To be truly honest, I am not even really sure if I am in a real book club now. This may be due to the fact that I am unsure what the rules for normal book clubs are. I don't know how fast they read their books or how often they meet to discuss them. I will detail how our book club is working and then leave it for you to judge and decide and tell me what we are doing wrong because I feel we are definitely doing something wrong. One of my first questions is whether or not three people are enough to constitute a book club. On top of that, one of our members, Hillary, lives in Portland, Oregon whereas The Thing and I live in Texas. This has complicated things somehow as we have to find a way to meet to discuss the book. Our first idea was to use Skype. Then we realized that you cannot use Skype for three way video call for free so we had to look for another medium. The Thing suggested that we use Google+ and that will be what we will try next. I am saying we will try it because, as of right now which is two months after the club started, we haven't really had an official meeting yet. Our club meetings are supposed to be weekly on Monday nights at 8:00 pm Central Time (6:00 pm Pacific). The Thing has so far been unavailable every time. Also, me and Hillary haven't necessarily met at the correct time either. We have discussed the book twice though but both times were over the phone on random days. As for the book itself, it only had six chapters. Six loooooong chapters. We were supposed to read one chapter a week. If we had kept up with our reading schedule, we would have finished the book in about a month and a half. Two months later, only one of us had finished the book. I think that this may be our biggest problem yet. It's not the fact that we don't all live in the same area, or that we don't ever really meet to discuss the book but that we are not really doing the reading. I am fairly certain that a book club that does not read may not really be a book club. Maybe it's just me. I mean, yes, I was the only one to finish the book, but I did finish it two weeks later than it was scheduled so my commitment is not much greater than The Thing's, even if she only read about fifteen pages. The last time I talked to Hillary about the book she had one chapter to go but had no idea where her book was. I had finished the book two weeks late; Hillary was close to finishing it but had misplaced her copy of the book; and The Thing had never even finished the first chapter, so I figured it was time for us to move on to the next book and call this one a bust. It was Hillary's turn to suggest a book and she settled on 1984 by George Orwell. Yesterday, I emailed them a breakdown of the book by chapters and pages and suggested two reading schedules, one that will take three weeks and one that will take five weeks to finish the book. I am letting them decide which route they want to go. We are supposed to have our first meeting about 1984 on Monday, June 24 so we will have to wait and see how it goes. It can't go much worse, right? Right?!?

I think I have talked enough about the book club and should now discuss the book. I liked it. I had read one of Garcia Marquez's books before and I had really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading a second book by him. I found Love in the Time of Cholera to be very interesting because we are presented with characters that, though they share conflicting story lines, are all very easy to relate to. I guess I have become jaded by novels that have a clear antagonist to move the story along. I did not find that in this novel. Every action of every character is executed because the character truly believes that to be the best course of action. In this manner, Garcia Marquez presents us with a novel that delves deeply into the meanings of love and the many different manifestations of love even if the results were not always the "happily ever after" we have become accustomed to. He does not put one form of love above the others but presents them all as they are along with their merits and their faults. It is definitely a book worth reading if you like to read.

I guess I thought I had more to say about the book than I did. In a way, I do have more to say, but it is hard to discuss something without giving specific details and it's hard to give specifics to people who have not read the book. I guess having a book club is a good thing after all. I mean, even if we don't follow through on everything, at least we get a chance to discuss the book with someone else. Also, I did not know that writing reviews was so boring. I mean, did you read that last paragraph? It's probably among the worst things I have ever written. As I said, it's hard to discuss something without giving details but it is even harder to review something and try to make it interesting at the same time. I guess being a reviewer is not for me. Believe me, I have opinions. Unfortunately, these opinions are better expressed when other people know what I am talking about and when I am not trying to be serious. I don't do well at being serious. I also don't do well at writing last minute posts, which this one is. Not much has happened lately so I had to write this right before it posted so I apologize for that. Still, I did not want to let a week go by without posting so it's up to you to decide if something really is better than nothing. For what it's worth, I think it is.

1 comment:

GunDiva said...

I have an award for you over at one of my blogs, come and get it :)

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