Celebrated Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez died today at the age of 87 after a recent hospitalization for multiple infections. His death comes two years after it was reported he was suffering from dementia.
“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.”
― Gabriel García Márquez
In his extroadinary lifetime Márquez received widespread acclaim for his novels and short stories, including One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera and Chronicle of a Death Foretold. One Hundred Years in particular became incredibly popular, selling more than 50 million copies worldwide in over 25 languages. With his works Márquez stood as an ambassador for Latin American literature, and the father of magical realism.
When he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, he dedicated his lecture to the spirit of Latin America, and revealed to the world its inextricable ties to his particular writing style:
We have had to ask but little of imagination, for our crucial problem has been a lack of conventional means to render our lives believable.
Márquez is survived by his wife Mercedes and his two sons. He died at home in Mexico City. His memoirs remain unfinished.
Gabriel García Márquez Biography at eNotes
Works of Gabriel García Márquez:
and more found here.
The world lost two influential literary voices this week. Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing, best known for her novel The Golden Notebook, passed away Sunday at age 94. And Barbara Park, author of the beloved children’s books featuring her irascible character Junie B. Jones, died Friday after a long battle with ovarian cancer. Park was 66.
While it may not seem that these two very different authors have a lot in common, what Park and Lessing shared was a love of vocal women as well as sense of appreciation for life and its transient nature. Park captured what few writers for children manage to do successfully: the energy and curiosity of a girl with a questioning mind. For her part, Lessing was always adjusting the lens. As we get older, the clarity of a Junie B. Jones is harder to maintain, but Lessing asks us to remember, and to seek the authentic in an often exhausting world.
I wonder what Junie B. and Lessing might have to say to each other:
Nobel prize winner Seamus Heaney, “The most important Irish poet since Yeats,” passed away in Dublin early this morning. He was 74.
In the short time since his death, tributes have poured in from all over the globe. But all eyes are on the people of Ireland, whose loss of a national treasure is deeply felt. President Michael D. Higgins, himself a published poet, has spoken of Heaney, “the presence of Seamus was a warm one, full of humour, care and courtesy – a courtesy that enabled him to carry with such wry Northern Irish dignity so many well-deserved honours.” It is that Irish dignity that Higgins credits with boosting national confidence after the economic downturn the nation suffered in 2010.
He carried with him an Irish legacy, born of rural county Derry, that will live on in poems like “Digging” and “Field Work.” Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke for all of his country when he said the death of Heaney was a “great sorrow to Ireland… “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people.”
Listen to Heaney’s 1995 Nobel lecture below:
Under my window, a clean rasping soundWhen the spade sinks into gravelly ground:My father, digging. I look down…Between my finger and my thumbThe squat pen rests.I’ll dig with it.
There are lots of things we expect on the Fourth: fireworks, friends, family. There are things we love (sparklers, Roman candles, cold beer) and things we despise (sauerkraut, ambrosia, Lee Greenwood… all right, haters… this was from a friend. Direct all your spittle-filled anger elsewhere).
Here are a few unexpected things about the Fourth you can share tomorrow, if only to divert mom’s attention away from Uncle Collin while he takes the youngest kids ’round back to set off three packs of taped-together Blackcat firecrackers…
10. No Rush to Get “God Bless America” to the People
Famed American composer Irving Berlin gave his adopted nation one of its greatest and most iconic songs but it didn’t see the light of day because its author didn’t deem it worthy of being sung. Berlin was drafted into the military in the early 1900s and helped to draft a musical comedy for his fellow troops in which he composed the song for its final number — a tune inspired by a phrase his Russian mother would often utter after escaping to America from underneath the iron fist of the bloody Russian empire. However, the composer didn’t think it would fit in the show and kept it in his file for 20 years until singer Kate Smith wanted a patriotic song to sing on the radio as war broke out across Europe. The song became one of the most requested patriotic ditties almost overnight and a staple in American songbooks. (Source)
9. Ehhhh… We’ll Get To It. We’re… Busy.
July 4th was not declared a federal holiday until 1941. Most federal holidays are observed on a Monday but despite the temptation of a Guaranteed Long Weekend, that pesky date made lawmakers leave it be. (Source)
My childhood would have been so barren were it not for the words of Roald Dahl, and, of course, the whimsical scribbles by Quentin Blake that always accompanied them. The BFG, The Witches, George’s Marvelous Medicine, Matilda… I, like children generations before and after me, devoured these stories, more ravenous than Augustus Gloop at a certain chocolate factory. Inevitably, Dahl became my very first favorite author. Today, on what would have marked this exceptional man’s 96th birthday, a look back at the gifts he left to children’s and adult’s literature alike, through the eyes of one who read them…
When I first discovered Roald Dahl’s stories, I knew only of his illustrated children’s books. Even in that genre, his imagination was unparalleled; I pored over tales of a friendly giant, an enormous peach, a magical spell that makes tortoises grow, and a marvelous medicine. They were like nursery rhymes and fairy tales, only better–the kind where the wicked stepsisters would have their feet lopped off before being squeezed into the glass slipper, or where Little Red turns out to be a carnivorous villainess, whipping the wolf into a fur coat faster than the glint off a big bad tooth. The proper kind.
A little older, I turned to Dahl’s autobiography, Boy: Tales of Childhood. Excerpts like “The Great Mouse Plot of 1924” (in which Dahl and his boyhood friends place a dead mouse in a jar of gobstoppers belonging to the “loathsome” local sweet shop owner, Mrs. Pratchett) appealed to my youthful mischief-making, but the beatings and loneliness he described of boarding school sealed serious adults as the true villains of life. It became clear where the monsters behind Ms. Trunchbull and The Witches came from.
And still, my ideas of Roald Dahl evolved as I grew older. There were entire collections of macabre short stories I hadn’t been allowed to touch–“The Great Automatic Grammatizator,” “Man From the South,” “Royal Jelly.” All deserve to be read beneath the sheets with a flashlight and a pair of trembling hands. The messy ends of Dahl’s characters and the shocking twists he wove give Poe’s horror stories a run for their money, any day.
To his young readers, Dahl is like a childhood friend, a comrade in the denial to abandon whimsy in exchange for seriousness. Even in his own life, Roald Dahl seemed a sort of Peter Pan figure; a WWII fighter pilot turned MI6 spy, he crossed the globe like a classic adventurer, passing through exotic locations like Tanzania, Kenya, Egypt, Libya, and Iraq, of which he wrote about in another autobiography, Going Solo. As an undercover agent he rubbed elbows with fellow spy (and James Bond creator) Ian Fleming. Rumor has it they were commissioned to woo foreign diplomats’ lonely wives in search of secret information. At times, his life seems the work of pure fantasy.
In later years, Dahl took to using a colorful gypsy wagon, parked on his back lawn, as his writing space. From there he wrote more children’s fiction, like Danny, the Champion of the World and The Twits. He continued to turn out popular children’s stories right up to his death in 1990, at the age of 74. It’s from his posthumously published final work, The Minpins, that I take this passage, one of the quotes that seems to best epitomize the author’s views on fantasy and life:
Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.
To have grown up with Roald Dahl is to have never truly grown up. Here’s hoping we never have to.
Happy Birthday Roald Dahl!
As an extra treat, here’s an interview Dahl gave shortly before his death. In it, he describes the riveting story of his entry into literature.
Nora Ephron, one of America’s most beloved humorists, died today at the age of 71. Unconfined to the mere role of “writer”, Ephron transcended all genres. Journalist, screenwriter, novelist, playwright, essayist, blogger, she wore many hats, progressing from a young satirist in 1960s New York to one of the most powerful people in Hollywood. Many will remember her for the romantic comedies that warmed our hearts (Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail) but in her passing fellow female journalists remind us of the contributions Ephron made to the advancement of women. In a moving tribute to the writer in The Huffington Post, Lisa Belkin writes,
Most of all, she opened doors. By putting the female experience on the screen and on the page, she made it visible, and worthy, and she elevated it to the level of art. She took “women’s topics” — romance, relationships, food, motherhood, clothes, hair, friendship, aging, looking young — and declared that they were not only worthy of conversation, but they could draw at the box office, which is the only language Hollywood understands.
It’s hard to imagine where the funny women of the page and screen would be today without Nora Ephron to pave their way. Could Lena Dunham or Tina Fey be so side-splittingly hilarious without Ephron as a predecessor? She wrote unabashedly about the women’s realm, reveling in the woman’s view of sex and romance, allowing all of us to be not only funny, but honest and genuine too. She gave women a voice, and a witty one at that.
Ephron’s last two collections of essays, 2006’s I Feel Bad About My Neck and 2010’s I Remember Nothing, continued on in the same candid style as her earlier works, leaving nothing about her musings on aging to the imagination: “Today there are parts of Manhattan and Los Angeles where there are no gray-haired women at all… The amount of maintenance involving hair is genuinely overwhelming. Sometimes I think that not having to worry about your hair anymore is the secret upside of death.” Clues like this insinuated the end might be near, but for the rest of us it still came far too soon.
Ephron once wrote, “I always read the last page of a book first so that if I die before I finish I’ll know how it turned out.” We may have reached Nora’s last page, but I suspect and hope that young women everywhere will read her story for years to come.