1998 Book Predicted 2016 Election

Monday, November 21, 2016

The New York Times quotes from Richard Rorty’s Achieving Our Country, published in 1998:
Members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.
At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …
One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past 40 years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Source http://bit.ly/2fyrQ2U

Note of the day

Saturday, November 19, 2016

You may still be amused to hear that the singer/songwriter has officially declined to travel to Stockholm for the customary award ceremony due to “pre-existing commitments.” The official prize committee’s announcement tries sound as cheerful about it, but that last line sounds vaguely threatening: “We look forward to Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture, which he must give – it is the only requirement – within six months counting from December 10, 2016.” Clock’s ticking, Bob.

Note of the day

Friday, November 18, 2016

Information helps you to see that you’re not alone. That there’s somebody in Mississippi and somebody in Tokyo who all have wept, who’ve all longed and lost, who’ve all been happy. So the library helps you to see, not only that you are not alone, but that you’re not really any different from everyone else. There may be details that are different, but a human being is a human being. Maya Angelou

Note of the day

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The United States of America interned citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. The 1988 Civil Liberties Act signed by President Ronald Reagan issued a formal apology and $20,000 to each surviving victim of this racist program. It was a dark chapter in American history. Trump surrogate Carl Higbie believes that bringing back internment camps for Muslim citizens would Make America Great Again.

Note of the day

At the same time Donald Trump was watching the Presidential-election returns from Trump Tower, in New York, Ilhan Omar was in the Courtyard Marriott in Minneapolis, watching the returns and learning that she had also been elected, as a Minnesota House Representative for the city’s 60B District. Like Trump, Omar represented a change. Like Trump, Omar won on a platform promising to serve a community whose needs had been forgotten. But Omar represents many of the things that Trump has belittled: she’s a Muslim, an immigrant, a woman.

Editor's Note:

In this excerpt from Vanity Fair’s Writers on Writers, Paul Elie reflects on Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s most famous novel fifty years after it was published.

The house, in a quiet part of Mexico City, had a study within, and in the study he found a solitude he had never known before and would never know again. Cigarettes (he smoked 60 a day) were on the worktable. LPs were on the record player: Debussy, Bartók, A Hard Day’s Night. Stuck up on the wall were charts of the history of a Caribbean town he called Macondo and the genealogy of the family he named the Buendías. Outside, it was the 1960s; inside, it was the deep time of the pre-modern Americas, and the author at his typewriter was all-powerful.

He visited a plague of insomnia upon the people of Macondo; he made a priest levitate, powered by hot chocolate; he sent down a swarm of yellow butterflies. He led his people on the long march through civil war and colonialism and banana-republicanism; he trailed them into their bedrooms and witnessed sexual adventures obscene and incestuous. “In my dreams, I was inventing literature,” he recalled. Month by month the typescript grew, presaging the weight that the great novel and the “solitude of fame,” as he would later put it, would inflict on him.

Gabriel García Márquez began writing Cien Años de SoledadOne Hundred Years of Solitude—a half-century ago, finishing in late 1966. The novel came off the press in Buenos Aires on May 30, 1967, two days before Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was released, and the response among Spanish- language readers was akin to Beatlemania: crowds, cameras, exclamation points, a sense of a new era beginning. In 1970 the book appeared in English, followed by a paperback edition with a burning sun on its cover, which became a totem of the decade. By the time García Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize, in 1982, the novel was considered the Don Quixote of the Global South, proof of Latin-American literary prowess, and the author was “Gabo,” known all over the continent by a single name, like his Cuban friend Fidel.

Many years later, interest in Gabo and his great novel is surging. The Harry Ransom Center, at the University of Texas, recently paid $2.2 million to acquire his archives—including a Spanish typescript of Cien Años de Soledad—and in October a gathering of his family members and academics took a fresh look at his legacy, repeatedly invoking the book as his magnum opus.

Unofficially, it’s everybody’s favorite work of world literature and the novel that, more than any other since World War II, has inspired novelists of our time—from Toni Morrison to Salman Rushdie to Junot Díaz. A scene in the movie Chinatown takes place at a Hollywood hacienda dubbed El Macondo Apartments. Bill Clinton, during his first term as president, made it known that he would like to meet Gabo when they were both on Martha’s Vineyard; they wound up swapping insights about Faulkner over dinner at Bill and Rose Styron’s place. (Carlos Fuentes, Vernon Jordan, and Harvey Weinstein were at the table.) When García Márquez died, in April 2014, Barack Obama joined Clinton in mourning him, calling him “one of my favorites from the time I was young” and mentioning his cherished, inscribed copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. “It’s the book that redefined not just Latin-American literature but literature, period,” insists Ilan Stavans, the pre-eminent scholar of Latino culture in the U.S., who says he has read the book 30 times.

How is it that this novel could be sexy, entertaining, experimental, politically radical, and wildly popular all at once? Its success was no sure thing, and the story of how it came about is a crucial and little- known chapter in the literary history of the last half-century.

Leaving Home

The creator of contemporary fiction’s most famous village was a city man. Born in 1927 in the Colombian village of Aracataca, near the Caribbean coast, and schooled inland in a suburb of Bogotá, Gabriel García Márquez quit pre-law studies to become a journalist in the cities of Cartagena, Barranquilla (writing a column), and Bogotá (writing movie reviews). As the noose of dictatorship tightened, he went on assignment to Europe—and out of harm’s way. He had hard times there. In Paris, he turned in deposit bottles for cash; in Rome, he took classes in experimental filmmaking; he shivered in London and sent back dispatches from East Germany, Czechoslovakia, and the Soviet Union. Returning south—to Venezuela—he was nearly arrested during a random sweep by military police. When Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, García Márquez signed on with Prensa Latina, a press agency funded by the new Communist government, and after a stint in Havana he moved to New York in 1961 with his wife, Mercedes, and their young son, Rodrigo.

The city, he later said, “was putrefying, but also was in the process of rebirth, like the jungle. It fascinated me.” The family stayed in the Webster Hotel, at 45th and Fifth, and then with friends in Queens, but Gabo spent most of his time at the press office near Rockefeller Center, in a room with a lone window above a vacant lot overrun with rats. The phone rang and rang with calls from inflamed Cuban exiles who saw the agency as an outpost of the Castro regime they detested, and he kept an iron rod at the ready in case of attack.

He was writing fiction all the while: Leaf Storm in Bogotá; In Evil Hour and No One Writes to the Colonel in Paris; Big Mama’s Funeral in Caracas. When hard-line Communists took over the press service and ousted its editor, García Márquez quit in solidarity. He would move to Mexico City; he would focus on fiction. But first he would see the South of William Faulkner, whose books he had read in translation since his early 20s. Traveling by Greyhound, the family was treated as “dirty Mexicans,” he recounted—refused rooms and restaurant service. “The immaculate parthenons amidst the cotton fields, the farmers taking their siesta beneath the eaves of roadside inns, the black people’s huts surviving in wretchedness. . . The terrible world of Yoknapatawpha County had passed in front of our eyes from the window of a bus,” he would remember, “and it was as true and as human as in the novels of the old master.”

García Márquez struggled. He turned to screenwriting. He edited a glossy women’s magazine, La Familia, and another specializing in scandal and crime. He wrote copy for J. Walter Thompson. In the Zona Rosa—Mexico City’s Left Bank—he was known as surly and morose.

And then his life changed. A literary agent in Barcelona had taken an interest in his work, and after a week of meetings in New York in 1965 she headed south to meet him.

A Sheet of Paper

“This interview is a fraud,” Carmen Balcells declared with conversation-ending finality. We were in her apartment above the offices of Agencia Carmen Balcells, in the center of Barcelona. In a wheelchair, she had rolled out to meet me at the elevator and then spun the wheelchair to a giant table laden with manuscripts and red file boxes. (vargas llosa, read the label on one; wylie agency, another.) Eighty-five, with thick white hair, she had the formidable size and bearing that led her to be called La Mamá Grande. She wore a capacious white dress that suggested a resemblance to a female Pope.

“A fraud,” she said in English, in a high, small voice. “When a celebrity, or an artist—when this person dies and is no [longer] there to answer many things, the first move is to interview the secretaries, the hairdresser, doctors, wives, children, tailor. I am not an artist. I am an agent. I am here as a person who really had an importance in Gabriel García Márquez’s life. But this—it is not the real thing. The magnificent presence of the artist is missing.”

Balcells was preparing for a future she would not be present to see. A deal to sell her business to the New York literary agent Andrew Wylie had recently come apart. (More on this later.) Now other suitors were making their entreaties, and Balcells was trying to decide who would look after her 300-plus clients, the estate of García Márquez chief among them. Our interview, she told me wearily, would be followed by a meeting with her lawyers—“a dirty business,” she said.

That afternoon, grandiloquently alive, she pushed such matters aside and recalled the day she first felt “the magnificent presence of the artist” near at hand.

She and her husband, Luis, liked to read in bed. “I was reading García Márquez—one of the early books—and I said to Luis, ‘This is so fantastic, Luis, that we have to read it at the same time.’ So I made a copy of it. We both had enthusiasm for it: it was so fresh, so original, so exciting. Every reader says in his mind, of certain books, ‘This is one of the best books I have ever read.’ When that happens to a book again and again, all over the world, you have a masterpiece. That is what happened with Gabriel García Márquez.”

When Balcells and Luis arrived in Mexico City, in July 1965, García Márquez met not just his new agent but two people who were intimate with his work. In the daytime, he showed them the city; nights, they all had supper together with local writers. They ate and drank, and ate and drank some more. And then García Márquez, having fully warmed to his guests, took out a sheet of paper, and with Luis as a witness he and Balcells drew up a contract declaring her his representative in all the world for the next 150 years.

“Not a hundred and fifty—I think a hundred and twenty,” Balcells told me, smiling. “It was a joke, a spoof contract, you see.”

But there was another contract, and it was no joke. In New York the week before, Balcells had found a U.S. publisher—Harper & Row—for García Márquez’s work. She’d made a deal for the English-language rights to his four books. The payment? A thousand dollars. She had brought the contract, which she presented for him to sign.

The terms seemed onerous, even rapacious. And the contract also gave Harper & Row the first option to bid on his next work of fiction, whatever it was. “This contract is a piece of shit,” he told her. He signed anyway.

Balcells left to return to Barcelona; García Márquez set out with his family for a beach vacation in Acapulco, a day’s drive south. Partway there, he stopped the car—a white 1962 Opel with a red interior—and turned back. His next work of fiction had come to him all at once. For two decades he had been pulling and prodding at the tale of a large family in a small village. Now he could envision it with the clarity of a man who, standing before a firing squad, saw his whole life in a single moment. “It was so ripe in me,” he would later recount, “that I could have dictated the first chapter, word by word, to a typist.”

In the study, he settled himself at the typewriter. “I did not get up for eighteen months,” he would recall. Like the book’s protagonist, Colonel Aureliano Buendía—who hides out in his workshop in Macondo, fashioning tiny gold fish with jeweled eyes—the author worked obsessively. He marked the typed pages, then sent them to a typist who made a fresh copy. He called friends to read pages aloud. Mercedes maintained the family. She stocked the cupboard with scotch for when work was done. She kept bill collectors at bay. She hocked household items for cash: “telephone, fridge, radio, jewelry,” as García Márquez’s biographer Gerald Martin has it. He sold the Opel. When the novel was finished, and Gabo and Mercedes went to the post office to send the typescript to the publisher, Editorial Sudamericana, in Buenos Aires, they didn’t have the 82 pesos for the postage. They sent the first half, and then the rest after a visit to the pawnshop.

He had smoked 30,000 cigarettes and run through 120,000 pesos (about $10,000). Mercedes asked, “And what if, after all this, it’s a bad novel?”

Mind on Fire

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past,” Faulkner observed, and with One Hundred Years of Solitude, García Márquez made the presence of the past a condition of life in Macondo—like poverty, or injustice. Over seven generations José Arcadio Buendía and his descendants are relentlessly present to one another: in their inherited names, their fits of anger and jealousy, their feuds and wars, their nightmares, and in the current of incest that runs through them—a force that makes family resemblance a curse and sexual attraction a force to be resisted, lest you and your lover (who is also your cousin) produce a child with a pig’s tail.

“Magic realism” became the term for García Márquez’s violation of natural laws through art. And yet the magic of the novel, first and last, is in the power with which it makes the Buendías and their neighbors present to the reader. Reading it, you feel: They are alive; this happened.

Eight thousand copies sold in the first week in Argentina alone, unprecedented for a literary novel in South America. Laborers read it. So did housekeepers and professors—and prostitutes: the novelist Francisco Goldman recalls seeing the novel on the bedside table in a coastal bordello. García Márquez traveled to Argentina, to Peru, to Venezuela, on its behalf. In Caracas, he had his hosts stick up a handwritten sign: talk of one hundred years of solitude forbidden. Women offered themselves to him—in person and in photographs.

To avoid distractions, he moved his family to Barcelona. Pablo Neruda, meeting him there, wrote a poem about him. At the University of Madrid, Mario Vargas Llosa, already acclaimed for his novel The Green House, wrote a doctoral dissertation about García Márquez’s book, which was awarded top literary prizes in Italy and France. It was seen as the first book to unify the Spanish-language literary culture, long divided between Spain and Latin America, city and village, colonizers and colonized.

Gregory Rabassa bought the book in Manhattan and read it straight through, enthralled. A professor of Romance languages at Queens College, he had recently translated Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch—and had won a National Book Award for it. He’d served as a code breaker for the Office of Strategic Services during the war; he’d danced with Marlene Dietrich when she entertained the troops. He knew the real thing when he saw it.

“I read it without any thought of translating it,” he explains, sitting in his apartment on East 72nd Street. Now 93, frail but mentally agile, he still attends reunions of surviving O.S.S. spies. “I was used to tried-and-true methods of storytelling. Oh . . . I’d done Cortázar. I knew [the work of] Borges. You put the two together and you got something else: you got Gabriel García Márquez.”

Harper & Row’s editor in chief, Cass Canfield Jr., having paid $1,000 for the previous four books, got an approval for $5,000 for the new novel, to be paid to the Balcells agency in installments. García Márquez asked his friend Julio Cortázar to recommend a translator. “Get Rabassa,” Cortázar told him.

In 1969, at a house in Hampton Bays, on Long Island, Rabassa set to translating the novel, beginning with its unforgettable triple-time first sentence: “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” He established certain rules: “I had to make sure the patriarch was always José Arcadio Buendía, never any truncated version, much the way that Charlie Brown is never called anything but Charlie Brown in ‘Peanuts.’”

Editor Richard Locke had first heard about the book in 1968 from novelist Thomas McGuane, while on a trip to visit him in Montana. “Tom was extremely well read,” says Locke. “He said this was the guy everybody was talking about.” By the time Harper & Row sent out advance proofs, in early 1970, Locke had become an assigning editor at The New York Times Book Review. “When the novel came in, I realized it was a very important book,” Locke remembers, “by a very different kind of writer—and in a new form that we had never seen before. And I gave it an enthusiastic report.”

Canfield, meanwhile, had sung its song to a Times reporter, and there appeared a preview of all the new Latin-American literature coming into English—El Boom—with García Márquez at the head of the line. “We are certain that García Márquez will cause the same sensation as some of the postwar French and German writers brought to the American literary scene,” Canfield predicted.

One Hundred Years of Solitude was published in March 1970, its lush-green jacket and understated typography concealing the passion within. Then, as now, the key reviews for sales and prizes were those of the Times. The Book Review praised it as “a South American Genesis, an earthy piece of enchantment.” John Leonard, in the daily Times, held nothing back: “You emerge from this marvelous novel as if from a dream, the mind on fire.” He concluded, “With a single bound, Gabriel García Márquez leaps onto the stage with Günter Grass and Vladimir Nabokov, his appetite as enormous as his imagination, his fatalism greater than either. Dazzling.”

Signed up for $5,000 on the basis of a “piece of shit” contract, the book would sell 50 million copies worldwide, becoming a year‑in‑year-out fixture on the backlist. Gregory Rabassa watched with mingled pride and unease as his work—paid for in a lump sum “of about a thousand dollars,” like the work of a gardener “spreading manure on a suburban lawn”— became at once the most acclaimed novel in translation and the most popular. García Márquez himself read One Hundred Years of Solitude in the Harper & Row edition and pronounced it better than his Spanish original. He called Rabassa “the best Latin American writer in the English language.”

The Accolades

Many have entertained the notion of making a movie of One Hundred Years of Solitude. None has come close. Sometimes author and agent named an astronomicalsum for the rights. Other times García Márquez set fantastical terms.Gabo told Harvey Weinstein that he would grant him and Giuseppe Tornatorethe rights, provided the movie was made his way. As Weinstein would recall:“We must film the entire book, but only release one chapter—twominuteslong—eachyear, for one hundred years.”

Instead of adaptations, then, there have been homages by other novelists—some explicit (Oscar Hijuelos’s highly amplified novels of Cuban America), others indirect and furtive (William Kennedy’s Ironweed, in which a dead child speaks to his father from the grave). Alice Walker bent the iron bars of plausibility in The Color Purple, where letters sent to God elicit real replies. Isabel Allende, a relative of the slain Chilean president (and herself a Balcells client), told the story of modern Chile through a family saga in The House of the Spirits.

“I was sitting in my office at Random House,” says Toni Morrison, then an editor with two of her own novels published, “just turning the pages of One Hundred Years of Solitude. There was something so familiar about the novel, so recognizable to me. It was a certain kind of freedom, a structural freedom, a [different] notion of a beginning, middle, and end. Culturally, I felt intimate with him because he was happy to mix the living and the dead. His characters were on intimate terms with the supernatural world, and that’s the way stories were told in my house.”

Morrison’s father had died, and she had in mind a new novel, whose protagonists would be men—a departure for her. “I had hesitated before writing about those guys. But now, because I had read One Hundred Years of Solitude, I did not hesitate. I got permission from García Márquez”— permission to write Song of Solomon, the first of a run of big, bold novels. (Many years later, Morrison and García Márquez taught a master class together at Princeton. It was 1998— “the year Viagra came out,” Morrison recalls. “I would pick him up in the morning at the hotel where he and Mercedes were staying, and he said, ‘The peell: the peell is not for us men. It is for you, for you women. We do not need it, but we want to please you!’”)

John Irving was teaching literature and coaching wrestling at Windham College, in Vermont, an Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate in thrall to Günter Grass. Like The Tin Drum, García Márquez’s book struck him with its old-fashioned breadth and confidence. “Here’s a guy who’s a 19th-century storyteller but who’s working now,” says Irving. “He creates characters and makes you love them. When he writes about the supernatural, it’s extraordinary, not ordinary. The incest and intermarriage . . . it’s pre-destined, like in Hardy.”

Junot Díaz, a generation younger, sees Gabo as a guide to current realities. Díaz read the novel in his first months at Rutgers, in 1988. “The world went from black-and-white to Technicolor,” he says. “I was a young Latino-American-Caribbean writer desperately looking for models. This novel went through me like a lightning bolt: it entered through the crown of my head and went right down to my toes, redounding through me for the next several decades—up to right now.” He was struck by the fact that One Hundred Years of Solitude had been written just after his own homeland, the Dominican Republic, was invaded by U.S. troops in 1965, and he came to see magic realism as a political tool—one “that enables Caribbean people to see things clearly in their world, a surreal world where there are more dead than living, more erasure and silence than things spoken.” He explains: “There are seven generations of the Buendía family. We are the eighth generation. We are the children of Macondo.”

Salman Rushdie was living in London and thinking about the country of his childhood when he first read the book. Many years later he wrote, “I knew García Márquez’s colonels and generals, or at least their Indian and Pakistani counterparts; his bishops were my mullahs; his market streets were my bazaars. His world was mine, translated into Spanish. It’s little wonder I fell in love with it—not for its magic . . . but for its realism.” Reviewing García Márquez’s novel Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Rushdie summarized the novelist’s fame with the controlled hyperbole he and Gabo had in common: “The news of a new Márquez book takes over the front pages of the Spanish-American dailies. Barrow boys hawk copies in the streets. Critics commit suicide for lack of fresh superlatives.” Rushdie called him “Angel Gabriel,” an offhand gesture that suggests García Márquez’s influence on The Satanic Verses, whose protagonist is called the Angel Gibreel.

The Altercation

By then, Gabo was a Nobel laureate. He had a new U.S. publisher, Knopf. And in a rare stroke, Chronicle of a Death Foretold was published in full in the premiere issue of the revived Vanity Fair, in 1983, where Richard Locke had taken the editor’s chair. Locke and Alexander Liberman, Condé Nast’s editorial director, had commissioned accompanying artwork by Botero, the Colombian portraitist. The admiration for the author was universal. He was the laureate everyone could love.

Everyone, that is, except Mario Vargas Llosa. They’d been friends for years: Latin-American expats in Barcelona, prominent writers of El Boom, clients of Carmen Balcells’. Their wives—Mercedes and Patricia—socialized. Then they had a falling-out. In 1976, in Mexico City, García Márquez attended a screening of the film La Odisea de los Andes, for which Vargas Llosa had written the script. Spotting his friend, García Márquez went to embrace him. Vargas Llosa punched him in the face, knocking him down and giving him a black eye.

“And García Márquez said, ‘Now that you’ve punched me to the ground, why don’t you tell me why,’” Balcells told me, recalling the episode. Ever since, literary people in Latin America have wondered why. One story is that García Márquez had told a mutual friend that he found Patricia less than beautiful. A second is that Patricia, suspecting that Mario was having an affair, had asked Gabo what she should do about it, and Gabo had told her to leave him. Vargas Llosa has said only that it was “about a personal problem.”

“Another writer said to Mario, ‘Be careful,’” Balcells recalled. “‘You don’t want to be known as the man who clocked the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude.’”

For four decades, Vargas Llosa has categorically refused to discuss the episode, and he has said that he and Gabo made a “pact” to take the story to their graves. But in a recent conversation about his friend and rival, Vargas Llosa—himself a Nobel laureate—spoke affectionately and at length about what García Márquez has meant to him, from his first encounter with Gabo’s fiction (in Paris, and in French translation) to their first meeting, at the Caracas airport, in 1967, to their years as boon companions in Barcelona, to their plan to write a novel together about the 1828 war between Peru and Colombia. And he spoke about Cien Años de Soledad, which he read and wrote about “immediately, immediately” when it reached him in Cricklewood, North London, a few weeks after publication. “This was the book that enlarged the Spanish-language reading public to include intellectuals and also ordinary readers because of its clear and transparent style. At the same time, it was a very representative book: Latin America’s civil wars, Latin America’s inequalities, Latin America’s imagination, Latin America’s love of music, its color—all this was in a novel in which realism and fantasy were mixed in a perfect way.” About his falling-out with Gabo he kept his silence, saying, “That is a secret for a future biographer.”

Perfect Marriage

Carmen Balcells will be known always as the agent who represented the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude. She met me in Barcelona, with the understanding that she would be speaking as the one who, in the title of Gabo’s own memoir, was still “living to tell the tale.”

Our encounter, as it turned out, would take a Márquezian twist. We were at the giant table in the sala, like a classic six on Park Avenue. A portrait made of Balcells many years earlier was hung on one wall—the same darting eyes, the same strong jaw—and it was as if the younger Balcells were present, too, witnessing the long story of the agent’s relationship with her writer. It has been called “un matrimonio perfecto.

I told her that I had worked as an editor with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. “Aha!,” she exclaimed. “I have a photographic memory for faces, you see, and it must be that I saw your face when I was there to see Roger [Straus, the publisher]. You have the same face you had then!

“Because I met you, you can ask me anything you want,” she went on, and we talked for an hour and a half. Ever the agent, she attached provisos to the conversation. She told me (“but not for your article”) what it was that prompted Mario to slug Gabo that night in 1976. She explained (“but you must promise not to publish until I die”) how she had leveraged One Hundred Years of Solitude again and again to “make a secret deal” with its publishers worldwide, granting them the rights to new books only on condition that they amended their individual contracts for Gabo’s book—so that rights to it would revert back to the agency.

She spoke without proviso about the state of the agency. “I retired in the year 2000,” she said. “The business was with three associates: my son, the man who does the contracts, [and another]. But I had to return because of the debts, the losses.” She described her dealings with the most powerful agent in the English-speaking world: “Andrew Wylie is one of the persons who has wanted to buy my agency for 20 years. It should have been done six months ago. Andrew was here with Sarah [Chalfant, his deputy], and with a publisher who has become an agent . . .” She shook her head, unable to recall the name of Cristóbal Pera, who ran Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial in Mexico before joining Wylie in August [2015].

In May 2014, Agencia Carmen Balcells entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Wylie Agency about an eventual sale, and the Times reported the deal as all but done. Balcells clearly trusted Wylie enough to have taken things that far. So why wasn’t the deal done? Because, Balcells said, she surmised that Wylie anticipated closing the office on the Diagonal in Barcelona and folding the Balcells agency into his operations in New York and London. This she was strongly against. So she began entertaining other offers: from the London-based literary agent Andrew Nurnberg, who represents authors ranging from Harper Lee to Tariq Ali (as well as the late Jackie Collins), and from Riccardo Cavallero, who previously ran Mondadori in Italy and Spain.

“Three offers, all very interesting,” she told me. “But the process is frozen, because none of them was good enough.” In a little while the lawyers would arrive and she and they would try to sort things out. She articulated her greatest fear: betraying her authors, should the needs of a new agency partner supersede the needs of individual writers. “To be a literary agent: it’s a modest job,” she said. “But it’s a job that’s important for the writer. It’s a position that you take the right decision for your clients. And the problem is that the ego [of the agents] can get in the way. It’s very important that the agency is a person, one person. It’s not about money.”

What was it about? Andrew Wylie won’t talk about their discussions. So Balcells’ word may be the last word. For her, it was also about something else—about the agent as a presence in the lives of her authors, and as a person who would be there when what she called “the magnificent presence of the author” was no more.

Rolling gracefully in her wheelchair, she showed me to the elevator. She kissed my hand in parting. Seven weeks later, she died of a heart attack, stricken in that Barcelona apartment. Despite her advanced years, her death took the publishing community by surprise. And with her passing she would become, like her magical author, altogether present, a specter that haunts the fight for her agency—and Gabo’s legacy.

Who will represent One Hundred Years of Solitude? Right now, no one knows. But the Buendías and their village, Macondo, are ably represented: we are their descendants, and they are present to us, as vivid as a swarm of yellow butterflies in the pages of Gabriel García Márquez’s magnificent novel.

The post The Magnificence of Gabo’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ appeared first on Signature Reads.



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November 10, 2016 at 10:18PM

Read the Letter Aaron Sorkin Wrote His Daughter After Donald Trump Was Elected President

Sorkin Girls,
Well the world changed late last night in a way I couldn't protect us from. That's a terrible feeling for a father. I won't sugarcoat it—this is truly horrible. It's hardly the first time my candidate didn't win (in fact it's the sixth time) but it is the first time that a thoroughly incompetent pig with dangerous ideas, a serious psychiatric disorder, no knowledge of the world and no curiosity to learn has.
And it wasn't just Donald Trump who won last night—it was his supporters too. The Klan won last night. White nationalists. Sexists, racists and buffoons. Angry young white men who think rap music and Cinco de Mayo are a threat to their way of life (or are the reason for their way of life) have been given cause to celebrate. Men who have no right to call themselves that and who think that women who aspire to more than looking hot are shrill, ugly, and otherwise worthy of our scorn rather than our admiration struck a blow for misogynistic shitheads everywhere. Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being "the fresh voice of an outsider" who's going to "shake things up." (Did anyone bother to ask how? Is he going to re-arrange the chairs in the Roosevelt Room?) For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, F.D.R., J.F.K. and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who'll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and those numbers will be legion). We've embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world.
And the world took no time to react. The Dow futures dropped 700 points overnight. Economists are predicting a deep and prolonged recession. Our NATO allies are in a state of legitimate fear. And speaking of fear, Muslim-Americans, Mexican-Americans and African-Americans are shaking in their shoes. And we'd be right to note that many of Donald Trump's fans are not fans of Jews. On the other hand, there is a party going on at ISIS headquarters. What wouldn't we give to trade this small fraction of a man for Richard Nixon right now?

VIDEO: The Evolution of Donald Trump's Presidential Campaign
So what do we do?
First of all, we remember that we're not alone. A hundred million people in America and a billion more around the world feel exactly the same way we do.
Second, we get out of bed. The Trumpsters want to see people like us (Jewish, "coastal elites," educated, socially progressive, Hollywood…) sobbing and wailing and talking about moving to Canada. I won't give them that and neither will you. Here's what we'll do…
…we'll fucking fight. (Roxy, there's a time for this kind of language and it's now.) We're not powerless and we're not voiceless. We don't have majorities in the House or Senate but we do have representatives there. It's also good to remember that most members of Trump's own party feel exactly the same way about him that we do. We make sure that the people we sent to Washington—including Kamala Harris—take our strength with them and never take a day off.
We get involved. We do what we can to fight injustice anywhere we see it—whether it's writing a check or rolling up our sleeves. Our family is fairly insulated from the effects of a Trump presidency so we fight for the families that aren't. We fight for a woman to keep her right to choose. We fight for the First Amendment and we fight mostly for equality—not for a guarantee of equal outcomes but for equal opportunities. We stand up.
America didn't stop being America last night and we didn't stop being Americans and here's the thing about Americans: Our darkest days have always—always—been followed by our finest hours.
Roxy, I know my predictions have let you down in the past, but personally, I don't think this guy can make it a year without committing an impeachable crime. If he does manage to be a douche nozzle without breaking the law for four years, we'll make it through those four years. And three years from now we'll fight like hell for our candidate and we'll win and they'll lose and this time they'll lose for good. Honey, it'll be your first vote.
The battle isn't over, it's just begun. Grandpa fought in World War II and when he came home this country handed him an opportunity to make a great life for his family. I will not hand his granddaughter a country shaped by hateful and stupid men. Your tears last night woke me up, and I'll never go to sleep on you again.
Editor's note: A previous version of this article overstated the amount by which Dow futures dropped on Wednesday morning.


Hell has officially frozen over: Donald Trump is the president-elect after a brutal campaign in which he insulted women, Muslim, Latinos, immigrants, African-Americans, people with disabilities, and countless others. In this time of despair, it's hard to know what to do next, but I have a suggestion: read, and read diversely. Because if I learned anything from this election, it's this: we need diverse books more than ever.

Bottled water comes in two varieties. There's purified water, which is water from local sources (a.k.a. tap water) that has been filtered, and there's natural spring water, which is sourced from springs across the United States. So the bottled water that costs you several dollars may be sourced from the earth in Florida or it's just from the local water supply in New York.


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