Wednesday, 10 April 2013
Does anyone actually enjoy reading 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez?
I had an English teacher when I was in Year 12 who I thought was the coolest person on the entire planet. She taught me a lot, and I think was ultimately responsible for the fact that I went on to study English Literature and go on to be an English teacher. I did once ask her "Why would anyone with an Oxbridge degree want to become a teacher?", which I think about sometimes with a wry smile.
Anyway, as I've detailed elsewhere, as a youth I was completely obsessed with reading. I read on average about seven books a week, and always had at least two on the go at once (I guess that was my attempt at teen promiscuity, geek style). However, there was a distinct trend towards quantity above quality. Sometimes both books I had on the go were by the erstwhile Danielle Steele. Often, they were Malory Towers.
My English teacher despaired of my trashy and/or child novel habits. Every week she gave me a different book to attempt to lure me in to reading books that were "worth something". Morvern Caller disturbed me for weeks. Ditto Trainspotting (although I did like that).
I finally lost my temper at 100 Years Of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Apparently it was meant to make you think about "the nature of reality". Well frankly, give me Danielle Steele any day of the week. It was grim and pretty much incomprehensible. She suggested I read in in the original Spanish in case the "magic" was lost in translation. My GCSE Spanish extended to asking where the town hall is (why would anyone need to know this, ever, by the way? Why would you ever need to go to the town hall?) and ordering two beers and a ham sandwich. Needless to say, I did not get on any better with the book in its original language, but, in fairness, this was my failing, rather than Marquez's.
I was prompted to think of this, as in a recent copy of the Times Educational Supplement, there was a Top 100 Books Chosen by Teachers list. I was feeling excessively smug at having read all of them, but became incensed at the mention of Marquez. If it's really their favourite book, then fine. But I can't help thinking they said it to make them look clever. They are not going to say "Actually I REALLY LOVE Flowers in the Attic" by Virginia Andrews. It's like claiming that your favourite REM song is some random song off some album that no-one else has got apart from about three men who spent their youths scrabbling around in smelly record shops. Yes Mr M, I am looking at you.
We've all done it. I did it in my Oxford interview. Instead of admitting that I was reading Just Seventeen magazine and Malory Towers for the 72nd time, I pretended to be reading The Handmaid's Tale, which I'd actually read about six months before. I did at least enjoy that book though. NO WAY was I going to say I was reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Mainly because if they'd have asked me "What do you think of it?", I'd have struggled not to say "I don't get it, and it's really boring." Not going to get me a place... I think all of those people who chose it as their favourite should explain exactly what they like about it. I would ban the phrase "it makes you question the nature of reality". That can be achieved by watching Big Brother.