One Hundred Years of Solitude: Does anyone else have trouble remembering what it is about?

If you ask me: Hey, what is that book about that you said you really liked? I will probably give a vague response that will leave you thinking that the summary I just gave could have been about any number of books. I have had multiple embarrassing conversations at the reference desk of a bookstore that all went something like this...

Me: I need to know the name of an author, can you help me?
Poor Cute Bookstore Guy: Sure, what is a book that he (she?) has written?
Me: I can’t remember the name. It’s about a girl who has to confront a hard situation and she learns that she can’t do everything on her own but that she can do more than she first thought.
PCBG: Uhm... not even a guess at the name?

On the bright side, it’s almost impossible for me to spoil the plot for you.

For a person that already has issues remembering the plots of books, and forgets key points of a movie as soon as the catchy song at the end of the film starts, reading One Hundred Years of Solitude is a test of mental fortitude.

First of all, after you get past the title page, you see a character map. Normally I see a character map and get pissed off because HELLO SPOILER ALERT THANKS FOR THE WARNING BOOK DESIGNER. But after looking closely at it, you see that there are six generations of a family and all of them have the same five names. Most of them start with the letter A, R, or U. And if you read with a voice in your head, you will realize that A and U sound nearly identical. Furthermore, the names Aureliano and Arcadio have an R as the first consonant sound. Which doesn’t help when the other names either begin with R or also have R as the first consonant sound (such as Ursula). So basically, everyone in the book has the same name.

And dear readers, this is on purpose. The characters themselves talk about the problem multiple times.

Speaking of multiple times, everything happens or is spoken about multiple times. But it is brought up in such a way that it sounds like a droning or a dull hum. Every event is given equal weight in the book. Cleaning the house is equal to an execution. So while you are reading, your brain has to continually decide what is important and what is not.

Sidenote: I am always skimming articles that say the internet is corrupting our sense of what matters, and we need to teach kids how to determine what is important, and we need better ways to curate the good from the bad so we can save time and brain power and become superior. Hey guys, you want to teach how to do that? Here’s some practice material from 1967.

My brain was so busy trying to predict where the plot was going (allow me to save you the effort: IT DOESN’T), keep track of the characters, and sort out what I need to remember for later in the story, that I forgot to enjoy reading.

And that is the biggest problem I had with the book.

Top view of a book with post-it flags in it

See that gap in the middle of the book with no post-it flags? That is the part I didn’t enjoy reading.

But see that part at the end of the book with all the flags? I did enjoy all of that.

Don’t misunderstand me, the prose is beautiful throughout. But the end, when the family dwindles to just a few characters, and I got to see more of them and less of everything else with its relentless, hymenopteric buzzing, when I gave up trying to remember and just let Gabriel García Márquez work his magic, his magic became real.

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