You are on page 1of 2

Merrill Lynch's bull," but nothing day practice of their lives. He has morning.

It is a world so intricate
about what actually happens (or
has happened) at the center of the
FICTION learned to keep us blessedly far
from the inner suffering and
in its social arrangements that the
rich mayor must turn for relief
world capitalist system. Occasion- psychological discords of his fic- from his abscessed tooth to a dent-
al reflections hit the mark, but
most of what passes for critique is
a little more than fey irony—thin
and often inaccurate.
Forty years of tional creations except as they turn
into action or dialog.
This is the point in his career
when Marquez turns into a
ist who cries out to him with
"bitter tenderness" as he pulls it
that the mayor's pain is just pay-
ment "for our 20 dead men."
The comparison with the WPA
book is perhaps unfair. The Glick-
mans don't have the essayists'
freedom. They are prisoners of the
inherently fragmented walking
Garcia Marquez globs of words thrown against
storyteller.-He discovers commu-
nity life, in which women take in
laundry and are kind to their lovers
with cigarette packs, mourning
He begins to explore the power
of money to kill and deceive. He
writes of the curious revenges
overt and ironic that come to an
informer who grows rich on his
Collected Stories mothers display their dignity by
tour format, which makes it hard By Gabriel Garcia Marquez each other in a weighty search for refusing to display emotion, ado- betrayals.
to convey broad understandings Harper and Row, 311 pp., "significance." They are dense lescent women share talk of love
of the city. They are only two $16.95 with implication and devoid of while making artificial roses. He Folk realism and fantasy.
people, without the massive re- life. There is little in the way of gets interested in how people cope By th£ seven stories of Innocent
sources of the state behind them. By Paul Skenazy subject matter or story line, prac- in a world of neighbors, lovers and Erendira, most written in the late
And they are writing against the tically nothing of character or plot relatives—a world so small that '60s, Marquez has learned to court
main currents of their time: Koch It is rumored that Gabriel Garciadevelopment of beginnings or end- there are no strangers who pass that territory between folk realism
not LaGuardia is Mayor, and both Marquez has written more than ings. Marquez seems intent on unnoticed. A world so intimate and fantasy for which he has be-
the American Labor Party and 100 short stories that have not as representing a stage of introspec- that a grandmother guesses a girl's come so well known. He writes
public housing are dead. yet been published. It's the kind tion with no exit. Death is both pain by the number of times she about wild, open-ended tales of
of rumor one likes to hear, almost
But the failure is less of material one's deepest dread and darkest visits the bathroom on a given winged old men who come mud-
and psychic resources than imag- the kind Marquez himself likes to wish. caked to earth, huge young
ination and design. The WPA es- create in the fanciful biographical drowned men called Esteban, seas
asides he provides for his charac- Private hauntings.
ters. His receipt of the Nobel Prize By the early '60s, when Marquez
For the first that smell of roses and love and
contain houses with flowers on the
coincided with the publication of wrote the eight pieces of Big
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, a Mama's Funeral, his private
time Nobel terraces. The stories seem to be
parables, symbolic political mes-
solemn, detached rendering of hauntings had found public form
honor and revenge that managed in the village life of Macondo and prize author sages, adages brought to life. But
each fable is more suggestive than
to combine a respect for therites| the unnamed small towns one allegorical. They are about dreams
of love with a soulful and humor- finds in story after story. That Marquez's and the power of the imagination
ous depiction of human folly. form has to do with the distinctive to transform the known. They are
What else he has written in the stance Marquez takes to his char-
nearly 10 years since the publica- acters: ironic and bemused, yet
short stories about oppression and exploitation
and the uneasy alliance of victim
tion of The Autumn of the Patri- with an edge of wide-eyed wonder
arch—besides the reportage, the at the ways and wherefores of
appear in order and victimizer.
These stories take place at a
interviews, the addresses and the human action. His voice contains
like—remains a matter for specu- an almost cautionary warning and provide mysterious shore where the weary-
ing heat of the desert confronts the
lation. against taking anything less than depths of cruelty and the unknown
While we wait and wonder, we seriously or as more than just hap-
have the chance, through the penstance.
the chance to but beckoning promise of the sea.
They contain an inordinate
appearance of aew translations,, ..... .PH occasjon he will descend to
and compilations of previously satire, as in his wonderful evoca-
see his number of showmen:- smugglers,
con artists, photographers,
published pieces, to catch up with tion of how Big Mama "melts into
this most prolific and protean of her own legend" through newspap- development thieves, politicians and priests—
the charlatans Marquez loves for
artists. This present volume, Col- er accounts of her massive wealth,
lected Stories, for example, con- but he never condescends or as a writer. the way they work our faith and
greed, address our desperate de-
tains no new work. All 26 stories mocks those engaged in the every- sire to believe reality a bit more
have been available in English for responsive than it generally is.
several years. But for the first Like these illusionists, Marquez
time, they are organized as they operates on our unacknowledged
were in the three collections in hope that life can still surprise us,
which they first appeared in Span- our undeveloped optimism that
ish: Eyes of a Blue Dog, Big still clutches at the possibility of
Mama's Funeral and The Incred- radical transformation in our cir-
ible and Sad Tale of Innocent cumstances, our character and
Erendira and Her Heartless destiny. He nurtures such self-ful-
Grandmother. Reading them in filling possibilities by turning
order offers the opportunity to see metaphor (the one remnant of
the development of Marquez' liter- magic our language preserves in
ary skills and imaginative range, daily life) into plot. He alters ex-
and to fill in some of the gaps that pectations, expands the sense of
separate an early, tentative novel the possible, exorcises the com-
like Leaf storm from the mastery of monness from the commonplace.
One Hundred Years of Solitude, / Marquez offers twists of plot and
Autumn of the Patriarch and deviations of character that over-
Chronicle of a Death Foretold. turn assumptions. He seems to
When Marquez' first stories encourage us to grow feverish on
were reprinted in pirated editions our illusions and find his playful-
in the early '70s, he said he "would ness infectuous. His own artistic
destroy them if he could get his development from introspective
hands on them." After plowing submersion to materialism to the
through five or six, this becomes inviting later inventions is a
says dig deep beneath the surface understandable. And after reading suggestive model of just what can
of the present in order to under- all 11 of the pieces from Eyes of happen to someone who puts their
stand it; the Red Pages settle for a Blue Dog one is left with little trust in the imagination.
a species of left antiquarianism. more than weary confusion. Writ- Innocent Erendira is saved from
There is nothing wrong with com- ten between 1947 and 1953 by a her grandmother's persecution by
memorating heroes and victims young man in his early 20s just a sadsack smuggler's son who
(New York Panorama evokes "the beginning his career as a reporter, steals his father's oranges,
riveter tumbled from his hawk's they are not merely confused or which have been cultured to grow
perch, falling voiceless and» obscure, but self-conscious, self- genuine diamonds "stuck in the
alone"). But left history must go indulgent and just plain bad. heart of the fruit." Who knows bet-
beyond recollection and inspira- These fictions present a nether ter than the artist, Marquez seems
tion, and illuminate the roots of world in which nothing is either to imply, just what gems might be
the current order, if we are to get dead or alive, everything is dream- making their way across the bor-
on with the business of transform- like and surreal and everyone is ders of our own lives to rescue us
ing it. • insufferably alone with their woes. too at this very minute? •
Mike Wallace is editorial coordi- Whole stories go by without a hint Paul Skenazy teaches literature at
nator of Radical History Review of dialog or any exchange (or even the University of California, Santa
and is a director of the New York encounter) between people. The Cruz, and regularly reviews fic-
City Public History Project. sentences are made up of massive tion for In These Times.

LICENSED TO UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED
covers, mimicked Harlequin cov line., But- they are-written by ,for,a commercial writer,, it.is,orjly can ;be> dull,,and you'd like to do
By Pat Aufderheide ers, at least until a lawsuit forced women who typically believe in one of many unusual features of something exciting—take a trip,
some changes. And the company their own stories, and who write the romance fiction phenomenon. maybe. This is like travel,
"Miranda," his voice was low offered big-name Harlequin writ- the kind of books they like to read. Between the lines of the stock armchair travel; and you learn
as his hand slid under her hair, ers sizeable long-term contracts. That, Dailey says, is how she stories, readers seem to find a sol- something, just like you would if
forcing her face up, "are you tell- The prize was Janet Dailey, started, and other writers agree. ace that is almost spiritual. you went somewhere."
ing me the truth about yourself?" known as "the woman with the Author LaVyrle Spencer, for in- One devoted reader wrote a Some social and literary critics
It's not just Derek, or Beau, or golden fingertips," after she wrote stance, wrote in a romance fiction thank-you letter to Harlequin suspect there may be more to this
Zach who wants to know. Corpor- 28 romances in four years, bring- newsletter that Kathleen books: "The heroine makes me passion for passion than flight
ate executives, professors and ing in spectacular sales and a dedi- Woodiwiss' The Flame and the feel it's a lovely world, people are from tedium. They pin the evolu-
feminists are hard at work trying cated group of readers. Flower "possessed me to the point good, one can face anything, and tion of the romance fiction market
to figure out the realities behind a Silhouette also introduced where I found I, too, wanted to we are lucky to be alive. What a to the changing roles for women
national lust for romance novels. variations in the formula, drawing write a book that would make wonderful feeling! ...And if it in modern society. Feminist liter-
There may never have been a on an emerging trend. In 1972, ladies' hearts throb with anticipa- wasn't for Harlequin, I'd never ary critic Tania Modleski, in Lov-
better time for romance literature, Kathleen Woodiwiss' The Flame tion." She wrote, "I even got to know this uplift." ing with a Vengeance, finds that
or "paraliterature," as some call and the Flower had broken the the point where I told myself I Most readers are not so romances express for women anx-
it. Everywhere you look—on the Gothic mold. In Gothics, the wanted to do it for her, Kathleen, eloquent, or perhaps so desperate iety about their identities in a state
"L," at'lunch hour in offices, in heroine—a distant cousin to Jane to give her a joyful reading experi- as this reader. "I read them for of dependency on a man. Ro-
suburban family rooms, on bed- Eyre—struggled toward love and ence like she'd given me." escape." That's the first thing most mance fiction sales have grown—
side stands at nursing homes— marriage with the head of a house- Like homemakers returning a women say when asked why they and formulas changed—with the
there are books with title like First hold where she had come as gov- casserole dish filled with a batch consume such quantities of printed growth of feminism, she notes;
Love, Wild Love, Ann of Cambray erness/maid/orphan/poor relative. of cookies, the women share their sentiment. One housewife, who fiction may be bridging a growing
and Secrets of the Heart. Books By contrast, in the "spectaculars" appreciation of eachother's under- has been reading romances gap between ideals of domesticity
that readers once hid from view that Woodiwiss' book inspired, standing through new romances. throughout her 35-year marriage, and realities of working wives and
now are brandished with abandon. the heroine was typically pitched If this seems an unusual attitude says the reason is simple: "Life mothers.
into adventure by some man's mis-
Harlequin treatment, and she then negotiated

estimates that
well over half
a romantic solution through her in-
genuity. Capitalizing on this
trend, Silhouette boasted that its
books would combine "explicit
HRTor.|fflRTIilNMrHT
sexuality and good taste."
the readers get Snyder thought he was starting POPULAR CULTURE
a romance war, but what he really
did was to open a Pandora's Box.
through a book Suddenly, every publisher wanted
a piece of the romance market.
every two And suddenly everyone had a new
formula. Some ideas bombed; one
days._____ line for "golden years" readers,
called September Romance, never
Authors who used to type away even got off the presses. But
in anonymity now go on talk others, especially Dell's Ecstacy,
shows—under their own names— Bantam's Loveswept, and Berk-
and their husbands cheerfully an- ley's Second Chance at Love, did
swer interview questions as well. well. For a while, it looked like
Romance writers gather at their Harlequin's approach of "hard-
own conventions, which are co- core decency" would require a re-
vered by the mainstream media, scue mission from the Moral
and they subscribe to trade publi- Majority to save it.
cations such as Romantic Times-. But competition for readers
This brisk trade in female raised costs. Suddenly both Harle-
dreams could be a clue, some quin and Simon and Schuster were
people figure, to that perennial forking over $20 million a year in
question: what do women want? advertising for products that had
In 1980, Richard Snyder once sold themselves alongside
thought he knew. That was when detergent. Firms began selling
he, as chairman of the huge pub- books by mail order, and promot-
lishing firm Simon and Schuster, ing romance book clubs that of-
decided to launch a frontal attack fered a free book for every six
on 35-year-old Harlequin Books, bought. One promotion offered a
then reigning queen of the ro- dozen books stuffed into a Hefty
mance fiction market. garbage bag. The cover price of
Harlequin had pioneered the single copies inched up.
technique of selling formula fic- Soon, as Publishers Weekly put
tion to women in grocery and drug it in an article aptly titled "The
stores. The genre was distinctive. Romance Wars," "sensuality
Yes, these were boy-meets- burnout" set in. Sales fell off, and
threatens-loses-gets-girl stories, both the original competitors
. and yes, these were stories in started losing out to upstarts. Fi-
which the women were objects of nally, in 1984 Simon and Schuster
the action. But the point of view admitted it had lost and sold its
was the woman's. And the theme, line to Canada-based Harlequin,
invariably, was not that men con- taking in trade some U.S. distribu-
quer women, but that love con- tion rights. Today the romance
quers both misunderstanding and market appears to be stabilizing at
the will to dominate. The ro- a higher level of readership than
mances crossed space and time, ever before. The industry esti-
but whether it was Scotland or Fr- mates its share of the paperback
ance or colonial Virginia (never, market may be as high as 40 per-
say, Mozambique or East Ger- cent, with $450 million or even
many), the setting was always the $500 million in annual sales.
backdrop for affairs of the heart But in the dark days before con-
. that, readers seemed convinced, solidation, when publishers were
were timeless. busy pointing fingers at each other
The books have a broad reader- and pouring over marketing sur-
ship, one that crosses cultural and veys, writer Janet Dailey thought
class lines but that is anchored in she could explain the source of
a group of women who are white, their troubles.
married and working at least part "I think most publishers of cate-
time. They read with a speed and gory romance didn't realize they
regularity that is astounding; were dealing with a discerning
Harlequin estimates that well over reader," she said. She didn't
half of romance readers get blame writers for badly written
through a book every two days. books. New writers, she argued,
Richard Snyder thought these weren't getting the necessary help
women wanted more of what they
were already getting, and he was
from editors who were too eager
to hustle new books onto crowded
CS
willing to bet big on it. A new shelves to offer them guidance.
Simon and Schuster line, called Romances are marketed by men
Silhouette, was launched. Its with a close eye on the bottom

LICENSED TO UNZ.ORG
ELECTRONIC REPRODUCTION PROHIBITED