Happy Birthday, Mary Flannery!

“The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.” ~ Flannery O’Connor

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Today, had she not died of lupus a long time ago, Mary Flannery O’Connor would be 85 years old.

I’ve read quite a few of her short stories (my personal favorite being “Good Country People”), and I love the way she critiques Southern culture, the culture that I’m so familiar with. Reading her stories make me realize that not much has changed since she was writing decades ago.

When Harvin, Ticcoa, Jessie, and I visited the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home in Savannah in January, we were all delighted with our docent’s stories of Mary Flannery. Visiting house-museums, particularly when we have good docents and tour guides, makes these authors seem even more real to us…as if we could run inside the house for tea with Flannery and make fun of all of her neighbors.

Flannery is one of the great Southern writers…she was snarky and feisty and an incredibly gifted writer. Happy Birthday, Mary Flannery. Thanks for your words!

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Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

~opening line of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude

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It’s been about two years since I read those lines for the first time, and I was awestruck by them from the first moment. Who was this man? Why was he facing a firing squad? And, for goodness sake, what does ice have to do with anything?

I began reading on a Friday morning. While in the writing center, I read the first two chapters (50 pages or so) and then left work to head to my parents’ house for the weekend. I could not stop thinking about that book. I wanted to pull off onto the side of the road to keep reading. I met my parents for dinner and carried the book with me, reading the first line to my mother in hopes that she would be as riveted as I was. She wasn’t. That didn’t diminish my excitement, however. I finished the novel Sunday night, and since then, I’ve regarded it as my favorite book.

Today is Garcia Marquez’s 82nd birthday. He started as a journalist before moving to novels and short stories, and he’s considered one the most prolific novels of the 20th century. In fact, my friend Myron and I had plenty of discussions about why One Hundred Years of Solitude should be considered the essential postmodern, much like Eliot’s The Waste Land was the epitome of the modern period. However, according to Wikipedia, Garcia Marquez stated, “Most critics don’t realize that a novel like One Hundred Years of Solitude is a bit of a joke, full of signals to close friends; and so, with some pre-ordained right to pontificate they take on the responsibility of decoding the book and risk making terrible fools of themselves.” Quite an interesting comment. At any rate, the novel is still one of my favorites, and one of the first that I recommend when asked for my favorite book.

Garcia Marquez was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer several years ago, and although he is still alive, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever publish any new material again. However, he has already gifted the literary world with so much.

If you only ever read one book by Garcia Marquez, choose One Hundred Years of Solitude. Nothing I’ve read by him since has compared to that first novel that I read. It’s complex (I constantly had to refer to the genealogy chart at the beginning of the novel), rich in humor and Latin American culture, and so beautifully written. In fact, I so very much want to read this book again; however, I have plenty of Caribbean writing beckoning to me. Perhaps soon, Gabo. Perhaps. ๐Ÿ™‚

Dickens!

Today is the 198th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens. Yay! Dickens is one of my favorite writers, in case you don’t know me or somehow missed this fact.

I celebrated this impending event in three ways over the past week:

1. I finished reading Hard Times on Sunday. I’d been reading it for the class on the Victorian Period that I’m auditing this semester. I enjoyed it, but it’s not my favorite work.

2. I watched an episode of Dr. Who in which the Doctor and Rose travel back in time to 1869 London and meet Charles. It was the first episode of Dr. Who that I’d ever seen, and I truly enjoyed their portrayal of Dickens, and the fact that he frequently references his own work. ๐Ÿ™‚

3. I ripped out pages from my spare copy of Great Expectations and decopauged a composition notebook. It’s now awesome, and I can take notes or write stories or something in a notebook covered with scenes from one of my favorite books.

So, today, in celebration of his birth, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes from Dickens. He is prolific and perspicacious and completely awesome, and I think in two years, I should plan to travel to England on the 200th anniversary of his birth. ๐Ÿ™‚

From Great Expectations (when Pip first meets Estella, I believe):

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

From A Tale of Two Cities:

A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

Sidney Carton’s vision of Paris in A Tale of Two Cities:

I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long, long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.

From A Christmas Carol:

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour.

Happy Birthday, Charles! Thanks for enriching my life!