Friday, September 6, 2013

Gabo, Bela Bartok and Feliz Cumpleaños, Pareng Rolly

That stormy, tearful woman named "Maring" kept me cloistered and in bed for a week, infecting me with something I have  low resistance for--seasonal affective disorder, with its apt acronym of SAD. Without sun and all the bright promises it always makes to me, I'm a mess, good only for following a narrative to conclusion. For as long as I could follow a story to its end, I knew I was sane. More importantly, I was hopeful that I would recover from a temporary condition as soon as the weather cleared up. It did, and I did.

That week I went through the half-read or unread books in my library: Mark Helprin's comic novel Memoir From an Antproof Case, subsequently bequeathed to Alex and Barbara Dacanay one rainy evening when they drove me home, Michael Wallner's love story set in wartime France April in Paris, Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge (an unforgettable fictive character who appears even in the end-of-the-book Reading Guide, inserting her opinions ahead or after the real author), Anthony Bourdain's first novel Bone in the Throat (with so much "f_ck you!"  I wondered if the food prepared in many scenes wilted from all those expletives un-deleted in almost every dialogue; maybe this was Bourdain's warm-up exercise leading towards Kitchen Confidential). I capped the marathon with Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Living to Tell the Tale.

While reading the last, I remembered my husband Rolly who continues to toil unheralded to help put out a newspaper, a job Garcia Marquez also did during peaceful and tumultous times in his Colombia. Many times, I had to call Rolly in Baguio just to say, "There's this scene in a newsroom where Gabo..." and he'd yell on the other line, like the editors of old, to bring up the damn book and stop giving him the synopsis. Today, he's on page 49 of the autobiography.

Wait till he gets to pages 452 and 453 of this first edition where Garcia Marquez wrote about music and how he learned to write to it:
Garcia Marquez
"In Mexico, while I was writing One Hundred Years of Solitude--between 1965 and 1966--I had only two records, which wore out because they were played so often: the Preludes of Debussy and the Beatles' Hard Days' Night. Later in Barcelona, when at last I had almost as many as I had always wanted, alphabetical classification seemed to conventional, and I adopted for my own convenience in instrumental order: the cello, which is my favorite, from Vivaldi to Brahms; the violin, from Corelli and Schoenberg; the clavichord and the piano, from Bach to Bartok. Until I discovered the miracle that all things that sound are music, including the dishes and silverware in the dishwasher, as long as they fulfill the illusion of showing us where life is heading.

"...[W]ith time and the possibilities of having good music at home, I learned to write with a musical background in harmony with what I am writing. Chopin's nocturnes for quiet episodes, or sextets by Brahms for happy afternoons. On the other hand, for years I did not listen to Mozart after I was assaulted by the perverse idea that Mozart does not exists, because when he is good he is Beethoven and when he is bad he is Haydn.

"During the years in which I have evoked these memories, I achieved the miracle, and no kind of music interferes with my writing, though perhaps I am not aware of other virtues, for the greatest surprise was given to me by two very young and diligent Catalan musicians who believed they had discovered surprising affinities between my sixth novel, The Autumn of the Patriarch, and Bela Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 3. It is true that I listened to it without respite while I was writing the book, because it created a very special and somewhat unusual state of mind in me, but I never though it could have influenced me to the point where it would be noticed in my writing. I do not know how the members of the Swedish Academy discovered that weakness when they played it as background to the awarding of my prize. I was grateful in almost profound way for that, of course, but it they had asked me--with all my gratitude for them and for Bela Bartok--I would have preferred one of Francisco el Hombre's spontaneous romanzas from the fiestas of my childhood."
The maestro's method has just infused me with a desire to return to The Autumn of the Patriarch, reread it with Concerto No. 3 in the background. Meanwhile, feliz cumpleaños, Rolando. And may that dementia threatening the great Gabo's memory be halted by the force of his genius. After all, wasn't it he who wrote: "Life is not what one lived, but what one remembers and how one remembers it in order to recount it"?

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