Lately all I’ve been thinking about is love, sex, and diseases. The sixth issue of the monthly Stumptown Underground zines was about sex, so for the past month I’ve been looking at super sexy art, comics, writing, and illustrations. We had the release party on Saturday, where we watched a couple of sexy animations and raffled off a bunch of sex toys donated to us by some local sex shops. I brought a bowl of green M&Ms. Much innuendo and double entendres ensued. It is one of the biggest issues we’ve ever put out. Like, seriously. It’s just soo big. OK, I’ll stop.
I finished Love in the Time of Cholera on Valentine’s Day. I loved it. It’s great. I highly recommend it to all of you. Not only is Gabriel Garcia Marquez an incredible writer, the story is strong and complex and layered and involves so many different kinds of love it is difficult to sum up. “It’s about this guy who falls in love with this chick who rejects him and marries this other dude, and he waits 50 years to declare his love for her again,” I told my boyfriend, who looked at me sort of funny, at which point I said, “I mean, sort of. There’s a lot of other stuff, too.” Yeah.
OK, so, cholera. Shit sucks. Untreated, it can kill you in as little as 18 hours. You know you have it because you have crazy diarrhea the whole time. The bacteria swims into your intestines and messes with the proteins, turning your intestines into salt water, which pulls up to 6 liters of water into your system through osmosis per day (hence the diarrhea.) Yuck. There are some places in the world that still experience cholera outbreaks, but it can be almost eradicated with proper sewage and water treatment systems. But back in the day (in the 1800s and at the turn of the century), it was taking down some serious numbers of people. It started in Asia—Bengal, India, China—then moved to Russia, Hungary, Germany, and the rest of Europe. Then it went back to Russia and then to Asia again, then finally back through Europe and into Africa. The fifth cholera epidemic affected mainly Europe and the Americas, where Europeans had just started to settle. I’m talking big numbers, too. Like, 100,000 per country per epidemic in some cases. Geeze!
As fascinating as all that is, there’s surprisingly little about cholera in the book. As I said before, it’s mostly about Florentina Ariza biding his time until he can declare his love for Fermina Daza, who he has loved since he was a child. And while that may sound like a really romantic love story, here’s the deal: Florentina Ariza is a fucking pussy. He’s so sensitive when it comes to his lovesick suffering for Fermina Daza, who is obviously out of his league, but at the same time, he’s completely oblivious to the suffering and pain that he causes others because of his preoccupation with his own tragedy. I mean, in the 50 years that he waits to finally win back Fermina Daza, he sleeps with over 600 women (which is sort of neither here nor there EXCEPT for the fact that when he finally does win Fermina Daza over, he tells her that he “remained a virgin” for her, although Thomas Pynchon argues that he is, in a way, telling the truth) AND he is DIRECTLY responsible for the deaths of at least two of those women. What an asshole! That kind of love is my least favorite. It’s obsessive, destructive love that you think is there because it’s all you can think about, but in reality, it’s an illusion. It’s not true love.
Fermina Daza, in the meantime, is probably one of the most morally upstanding characters in the book and definitely one of the most well-balanced. She chooses to marry a man who is smart, practical, loyal, and committed to stopping the cholera plague. They do not love each other when they are married, but they eventually come to love each other, even after she finds out about his affair with another woman, whom he loves very much. Fermina Daza’s husband knows that when he finally decides to stop indulging in the affair that he is walking away from his one chance at love, but he does it because he knows that his role and duty is to be faithful to his wife. Florentina Ariza, on the other hand, engages in ridiculously immoral and abusive behavior in the name of love, while still seeing himself as a morally upstanding individual and preaching his brand of morality in a book that he plans to write. Ack! He makes me so angry!
Anyway, there is other love, too. Love between fathers and daughters, mothers and sons. The love that develops between friends who could’ve been lovers but decided not to and between people who need love so badly that they take it in places they know they shouldn’t. There is unrequited love and safe, secure love and passionate love. Youthful love and love at a very old age. It really is quite amazing. And true.
There are lots of other things to talk about. Like the fact that I can’t read a Garcia Marquez without thinking “magic realism” in my head every time something happens that isn’t quite logical. It’s a tick I wish I knew how to turn off. What I realized at the end of this novel was that unlike One Hundred Years of Solitude, where fantasy and reality are much more intertwined, the only time that he uses magic realism in Love in the Time of Cholera is when Garcia Marquez needs to say something that can only be expressed abstractly. But instead of doing it that way, he brings it into reality by combining it with fantastic elements. It’s hard for me not to try and make sense of them, explain them away, and then I realize that it’s Garcia Marquez, and he’s using “magic realism,” and I don’t think about it anymore. It’s not something I like about myself. I wish no one had labeled that concept and subsequently taught it to me. Perhaps then I could approach what he is saying for what is he saying, rather than trying to fit it into some already-existing paradigm in my head. Do you know what I mean?
I am super full of Ethiopian food, and I have been talking about this too long, so I am going to go. But read Love in the Time of Cholera. I think you’ll like it.