A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 24 – A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twenty four – A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Read it online here:

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

Magical Realism is a tricky and mysterious thing. When done badly it is horrific. When done well, it is a thing of wonder. And, of course, nobody does it better than Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I remember reading A Hundred Years of Solitude for the first time. It is a massive tome – but I was so enthralled at the text I never wanted it to end.

Reading magical realism in a short story is different than reading it in a long novel. If you spend enough time in that colorful world you get used to it and wonder why every day isn’t like that. But in a short story it comes as a shock – like gazing through a peephole into another universe.

Though you never find out who the very old man is or why he has those enormous wings (surely he is an angel – but what a decrepit one) and you never understand his speech – you feel for the poor wretch. Dragged from the mud and exhibited in a chicken coop until the owners become rich from the admission (and finally outshown by a spider woman) he still exhibits patience and understanding. It isn’t until his duty is done that he….

Well, read it and find out.

The curious came from far away. A traveling carnival arrived with a flying acrobat who buzzed over the crowd several times, but no one paid any attention to him because his wings were not those of an angel but, rather, those of a sidereal bat. The most unfortunate invalids on earth came in search of health: a poor woman who since childhood has been counting her heartbeats and had run out of numbers; a Portuguese man who couldn’t sleep because the noise of the stars disturbed him; a sleepwalker who got up at night to undo the things he had done while awake; and many others with less serious ailments. In the midst of that shipwreck disorder that made the earth tremble, Pelayo and Elisenda were happy with fatigue, for in less than a week they had crammed their rooms with money and the line of pilgrims waiting their turn to enter still reached beyond the horizon.

Short Story Day Nineteen – Eyes of a Blue Dog

19. Eyes of a Blue Dog

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/bluedog.html

This is day Nineteen of my Month of Short Stories – a story a day for June.

Source Figure, by Robert Graham, foreground, We Stand Together, George Rodrigue, background

Source Figure, by Robert Graham, foreground, We Stand Together, George Rodrigue, background

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is one of my favorite writers of all time. One Hundred Years of Solitude was a revelation when I read it decades ago – it is on my desert island list for sure. Love in the Time of Cholera might even be a better book, all around.

My love for his prodigious output of short fiction has never matched that of his epic novels, however. In small doses his Magic Realism (can this style of writing even be done in English? In an American settting?) feels overly precious to me – though his genius is evident even there.

Even though I love his work, if you tell me you can’t get into it… I’d have a hard time arguing. It’s not for everyone. Either it resonates with you or it doesn’t.

Today we have an early short story by him, Eyes of a Blue Dog (originally published in – you guessed it – the New Yorker in 1978). At first the story is confusing… What is going on here? It doesn’t take long to figure out we are in a dream, and the author does a good job of implying the odd geometry of a slumbering illusion.

There are two people in this dream, a man and a woman. They meet in dreams, but can’t connect in real life, because – even though the woman wants to find the man and goes around spreading the phrase “Eyes of a Blue Dog” as a clue to her whereabouts – he can’t remember anything once he wakes up.

It’s a concice example of loneliness. Even when we have found a kindred soul, our passion and hunger are doomed because of the mortal shell we are all trapped within. This theme of the human soul desolate and alone runs through all of his work – despite plenty of life-affirming, entertaining, and hopeful passages.

Now, next to the lamp, she was looking at me. I remembered that she had also looked at me in that way in the past, from that remote dream where I made the chair spin on its back legs and remained facing a strange woman with ashen eyes. It was in that dream that I asked her for the first time: “Who are you?” And she said to me: “I don’t remember.” I said to her: “But I think we’ve seen each other before.” And she said, indifferently: “I think I dreamed about you once, about this same room.” And I told her: “That’s it. I’m beginning to remember now.” And she said: “How strange. It’s certain that we’ve met in other dreams.”
—-Eyes of a Blue Dog, Gabriel Garcia Marquez