explore-blog
In the end all books are written for your friends. The problem after writing One Hundred Years of Solitude was that now I no longer know whom of the millions of readers I am writing for; this upsets and inhibits me. It’s like a million eyes are looking at you and you don’t really know what they think.
Gabriel García Márquez (March 6, 1927 – April 17, 2014) in this altogether excellent 1981 Paris Review interview, a fine manifestation of the magazine’s mastery of the art of the interview. (via explore-blog)

At the beginning of “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Macondo’s patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, wants to move the idyllic yet isolated community he founded to another, more accessible location. And, since no one else wants to go with him, he decides that he and his wife, Úrsula, and their son should leave by themselves.

“We will not leave,” his wife says, reminding him that Macondo was their son’s birthplace.

“We have still not had a death,” he tells her. “A person does not belong to a place until there is someone dead under the ground.” To which his wife replies, “If I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die.”

This was the first thing that came to mind when I heard that Gabriel García Márquez had died. I have always loved that scene. For anyone who’s been forced, or has chosen, to start a new life in a new place, these words seem to provide at least two possible markers by which one can begin to belong. By Úrsula’s definition, it is through life. By her husband’s, it is through death.

I remember thinking when my oldest daughter was born that, after nearly a quarter century of living in the United States, I finally had an unbreakable bond with the place. When my father, who had once imagined that he’d be buried in Haiti, was actually buried in Queens, New York, those ties became even stronger. After all, if pushed out, we can always take the living with us. However, unless we happen to be in a Gabriel García Márquez story, the dead can prove less mobile. Nothing seemed truer to me after my father’s death than the fact that he, and all of my other hardworking U.S.-buried immigrant relatives, had sacrificed everything so that the rest of my family could stay here.

In October, 2003, I was invited to participate in a PEN America tribute to García Márquez. The title of the evening was “Gabriel García Márquez: Everyday Magic.” The great man himself wasn’t there. He was already ill, I think. Among the other speakers that evening were the writers Francisco Goldman, Salman Rushdie, Paul Auster, William Kennedy, as well as Bill Clinton, on video.

That night, I was reminded of not just the breadth of García Márquez’s work but also of his personality. The fact that he counted both Bill Clinton and Fidel Castro among his friends astounded and outraged the woman sitting next to me.

The writers, however, focussed on his work.

Francisco Goldman mentioned a study which had found that, aside from the Bible, García Márquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” was the book you were most likely to find in the possession of Latin-American sex workers. Salman Rushdie pointed out the many similarities between García Márquez’s world and the one that he’d grown up in.

“It was a world in which there were colossal differences between the very poor and the very rich, and not much in between; also a world bedevilled by dictators and corruption,” he said.

Rushdie, like many of the other speakers that night, rejected the idea that García Márquez’s fiction was “fantastic.”

And I agreed.

I am often surprised when people talk about the total implausibility of the events in García Márquez’s fiction. Having been born and lived in a deeply spiritual and extraordinarily resourceful part of the Caribbean, a lot of what might seem magical to others often seems quite plausible to me.

Of course a woman can live inside her cat, as the character Eva does, in García Márquez’s 1948 short story “Eva Is Inside Her Cat.” Doesn’t everyone have an aunt who’s done that? And remember that neighbor who died but kept growing in his coffin, as in the 1947 story “The Third Resignation”? What seems implausible to me is a lifetime of absolute normalcy, a world in which there are no invasions, occupations, or wars, no poverty or dictators, no earthquakes or cholera.

I had always felt that García Márquez’s short stories often took a back seat to his longer works, and that his deadpan dark humor was not discussed often enough, so that night I read an excerpt from one of my favorite of his short stories, “One of These Days.”

In the story, the town mayor, a military torturer, shows up in absolute agony at the office of Aurelio Escovar, “a dentist without a degree.” The mayor is in so much pain from an abscess in his mouth that he’s unable to shave half his beard. Yet he still announces that he will shoot the dentist if he refuses to help him. The dentist, seeing an opportunity to avenge the recent death of twenty of his neighbors, tricks the mayor into letting him pull the diseased tooth out without anesthesia. But the dentist does not quite get the revenge he seeks. When he asks the mayor whether he should send the bill to him personally or to the town, the mayor exclaims, “It’s the same damn thing.”

This story, like so many others, shows how García Márquez’s famously unbridled imagination was also used to depict somewhat common yet unbearable realities.

Still, I can’t help but to keep returning to José Arcadio Buendía and his desire to leave. José Arcadio had hoped to guide his people toward the “invisible north,” only to discover that Macondo was completely surrounded by water. But he would not despair forever. There was still more work to do. And he had not yet experienced death, and the light rain of tiny yellow flowers that would fall to mark his passing. He had not yet seen that silent storm, and the cushion of petals that had to be cleared with rakes and shovels as his funeral procession went by. And neither had Gabo. Until now.


Does he do this she wondered? Conjure up last night, the things we did, feel an after-shudder? Waiting to see Emmett Hayes, was … agony! Fiona couldn’t eat. Think straight. Gawd I hate this! Half an hour late. Again. She diddled her guitar, scanned a book, traipsed back and forth to the fridge, swinging wildly between anger and anxiety. Why doesn’t he call? That dink! She could have gone with Rita and Shannon. She could have spent her hard earned cash on something besides a new silk bra and panties. That bastard. Then, still cursing, Fiona heard his obnoxious Porsche engine out front and relief coursed through her limbs. She barely resisted the urge to run to the car.

Dave Olson, Marketing Director, HootSuite. Dave (@daveohoots) is the Community Marketing Director for social media dashboard maker HootSuite. Working in the Internet space since 1996, Dave’s experience includes ISPs, ecommerce, open source web communities, movie promotion, a green business directory and an alternative accreditation program during the Vancouver Olympics. A graduate of Evergreen College in Inter-disciplinary Studies, he frequently presents at events and to the media discussing technology, art, and culture. After living and traveling worldwide, Dave now enjoys exploring his local North Vancouver mountains and forests. In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.*

In 1974, the University of Georgia school of law hosted “Law Day.” Distinguished journalist/writer Hunter S. Thompson shares his perspective of President Jimmy Carter. The speech that Carter gave not only defended MLK, but also reached a much deeper level of thought among the attendees, including Thompson.

The other source of my understanding about what’s right and wrong in this society is from a friend of mine, a poet named Bob Dylan. After listening to his records about “The Ballad of Hattie Carol” and “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times, They Are a-Changing,” I’ve learned to appreciate the dynamism of change in a modern society.

I grew up as a landowner’s son. But I don’t think I ever realized the proper interrelationship between the landowner and those who worked on a farm until I heard Dylan’s record, “I Ain’t Gonna Work on Maggie’s Farm No More.” So I come here speaking to you today about your subject with a base for my information founded on Reinhold Niebuhr and Bob Dylan.

You can read the full text of Carter’s speech here. It’s also worth watching a related clip below, where Thompson elaborates on Carter, his famous speech and his alleged mean streak that put him on the same plain as Muhammad Ali and Sonny Barger (the godfather of The Hells Angels).

It has been said that ”the true voice of [Hunter S.] Thompson is revealed to be that of American moralist … one who often makes himself ugly to expose the ugliness he sees around him.” That ugliness served its literary and journalistic purpose, no doubt. As for the purpose it served in his private life, in the realm of getting nitty-gritty, mundane things done, that’s a whole other question. Not much is known about this clip other than it features a NSFW voicemail that the gonzo journalist left for his local AV guy in Woody Creek, Colorado. The poor man….

Located in the mostly posh neighborhood of western Colorado’s Woody Creek Canyon, ten miles or so down-valley from Aspen, Owl Farm is a rustic ranch with an old-fashioned Wild West charm. Although Thompson’s beloved peacocks roam his property freely, it’s the flowers blooming around the ranch house that provide an unexpected high-country tranquility. Jimmy Carter, George McGovern and Keith Richards, among dozens of others, have shot clay pigeons and stationary targets on the property, which is a designated Rod and Gun Club and shares a border with the White River National Forest. Almost daily, Thompson leaves Owl Farm in either his Great Red Shark Convertible or Jeep Grand Cherokee to mingle at the nearby Woody Creek Tavern.

Visitors to Thompson’s house are greeted by a variety of sculptures, weapons, boxes of books and a bicycle before entering the nerve center of Owl Farm, Thompson’s obvious command post on the kitchen side of a peninsula counter that separates him from a lounge area dominated by an always-on Panasonic TV, always tuned to news or sports. An antique upright piano is piled high and deep enough with books to engulf any reader for a decade. Above the piano hangs a large Ralph Steadman portrait of “Belinda”—the Slut Goddess of Polo. On another wall covered with political buttons hangs a Che Guevara banner acquired on Thompson’s last tour of Cuba. On the counter sits an IBM Selectric typewriter—a Macintosh computer is set up in an office in the back wing of the house.

The most striking thing about Thompson’s house is that it isn’t the weirdness one notices first: it’s the words. They’re everywhere—handwritten in his elegant lettering, mostly in fading red Sharpie on the blizzard of bits of paper festooning every wall and surface: stuck to the sleek black leather refrigerator, taped to the giant TV, tacked up on the lampshades; inscribed by others on framed photos with lines like, “For Hunter, who saw not only fear and loathing, but hope and joy in ‘72—George McGovern”; typed in IBM Selectric on reams of originals and copies in fat manila folders that slide in piles off every counter and table top; and noted in many hands and inks across the endless flurry of pages.

Thompson extricates his large frame from his ergonomically correct office chair facing the TV and lumbers over graciously to administer a hearty handshake or kiss to each caller according to gender, all with an easy effortlessness and unexpectedly old-world way that somehow underscores just who is in charge.


The Motorcycle Gangs: Losers and Outsiders” (The Nation, 1965) The article that would become the basis for Thompson’s first book, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. ”When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists, you can generally count your chances of emerging unmaimed by the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools.”

The Hippies” (Collier’s, 1968) Thompson’s assessment of the actual lifespan of American hippie culture. “The hippie in 1967 was put in the strange position of being an anti-culture hero at the same time as he was also becoming a hot commercial property. His banner of alienation appeared to be planted in quicksand. The very society he was trying to drop out of began idealizing him. He was famous in a hazy kind of way that was not quite infamy but still colorfully ambivalent and vaguely disturbing.”

The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved” (Scanlan’s Monthly, 1970) A report from the bacchanal surrounding the Kentucky Derby, America’s most famous — and, in this depiction, by far its most grotesque — horse race. Also Thompson’s first collaboration with his longtime illustrator Ralph Steadman. (See also further background at Grantland.) ”Unlike most of the others in the press box, we didn’t give a hoot in hell what was happening on the track. We had come there to watch the real beasts perform.”

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Rolling Stone, 1971) The Gonzo journalism classic first appeared as a two-part series in Rolling Stone magazine in November 1971, complete with illustrations from Ralph Steadman, before being published as a book in 1972.  Rolling Stone has posted the original version on its web site.

Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail in ’72” (Rolling Stone, 1973) Excerpts from Thompson’s book of nearly the same name, an examination of Democratic Party candidate George McGovern’s unsuccessful bid for the Presidency that McGovern’s campaign manager Frank Mankiewicz called “the least factual, most accurate account” in print. “My own theory, which sounds like madness, is that McGovern would have been better off running against Nixon with the same kind of neo-’radical’ campaign he ran in the primaries. Not radical in the left/right sense, but radical in a sense that he was coming on with a new… a different type of politician… a person who actually would grab the system by the ears and shake it.”

The Curse of Lono” (Playboy, 1983) Thompson and Steadman’s assignment from Running magazine to cover the Honololu marathon turns into a characteristically “terrible misadventure,” this one even involving the old Hawaiian gods. “It was not easy for me, either, to accept the fact that I was born 1700 years ago in an ocean-going canoe somewhere off the Kona Coast of Hawaii, a prince of royal Polynesian blood, and lived my first life as King Lono, ruler of all the islands, god of excess, undefeated boxer. How’s that for roots?”

He Was a Crook” (Rolling Stone, 1994) Thompson’s obituary of, and personal history of his hatred for, President Richard M. Nixon. ”Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place.

Doomed Love at the Taco Stand” (Time, 2001) Thompson’s adventures in California, to which he has returned for the production of Terry Gilliam’s film adaptation of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas starring Johnny Depp. ”I had to settle for half of Depp’s trailer, along with his C4 Porsche and his wig, so I could look more like myself when I drove around Beverly Hills and stared at people when we rolled to a halt at stoplights on Rodeo Drive.”

Fear & Loathing in America” (ESPN.com, 2001) In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Thompson looks out onto the grim and paranoid future he sees ahead. “This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush.”

“Prisoner of Denver” (Vanity Fair, 2004) A chronicle of Thompson’s (posthumously successful) involvement in the case of Lisl Auman, a young woman he believed wrongfully imprisoned for the murder of a police officer. “‘We’ is the most powerful word in politics. Today it’s Lisl Auman, but tomorrow it could be you, me, us.”

Shotgun Golf with Bill Murray” (ESPN.com, 2005) Thompson’s final piece of writing, in which he runs an idea for a new sport —combining golf, Japanese multistory driving ranges, and the discharging of shotguns — by the comedy legend at 3:30 in the morning. “It was Bill Murray who taught me how to mortify your opponents in any sporting contest, honest or otherwise. He taught me my humiliating PGA fadeaway shot, which has earned me a lot of money… after that, I taught him how to swim, and then I introduced him to the shooting arts, and now he wins everything he touches.”

The Battle of the World Trade Center lasted about 99 minutes and cost 20,000 lives in two hours (according to unofficial estimates as of midnight Tuesday). The final numbers, including those from the supposedly impregnable Pentagon, across the Potomac River from Washington, likely will be higher. Anything that kills 300 trained firefighters in two hours is a world-class disaster. And it was not even Bombs that caused this massive damage. No nuclear missiles were launched from any foreign soil, no enemy bombers flew over New York and Washington to rain death on innocent Americans. No. It was four commercial jetliners. They were the first flights of the day from American and United Airlines, piloted by skilled and loyal U.S. citizens, and there was nothing suspicious about them when they took off from Newark, N.J., and Dulles in D.C. and Logan in Boston on routine cross-country flights to the West Coast with fully-loaded fuel tanks — which would soon explode on impact and utterly destroy the world-famous Twin Towers of downtown Manhattan’s World Trade Center. Boom! Boom! Just like that. The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives. It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. Osama bin Laden may be a primitive “figurehead” — or even dead, for all we know — but whoever put those All-American jet planes loaded with All-American fuel into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did it with chilling precision and accuracy. The second one was a dead-on bullseye. Straight into the middle of the skyscraper. Nothing — even George Bush’s $350 billion “Star Wars” missile defense system — could have prevented Tuesday’s attack, and it cost next to nothing to pull off. Fewer than 20 unarmed Suicide soldiers from some apparently primitive country somewhere on the other side of the world took out the World Trade Center and half the Pentagon with three quick and costless strikes on one day. The efficiency of it was terrifying. We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them. This is going to be a very expensive war, and Victory is not guaranteed — for anyone, and certainly not for anyone as baffled as George W. Bush. All he knows is that his father started the war a long time ago, and that he, the goofy child-President, has been chosen by Fate and the global Oil industry to finish it Now. He will declare a National Security Emergency and clamp down Hard on Everybody, no matter where they live or why. If the guilty won’t hold up their hands and confess, he and the Generals will ferret them out by force.