I have now FINALLY completed two very long reads: Gabriel García Márquez’ one hundred years of solitude, and Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Embracing Israel/Palestine:A Strategy to Heal and Transform the Middle East. Reading in these two very different genres at the same time provided challenges of focus for me, but also relief when one book might overwhelm me without having the other for contrast.
Márquez’ long story of a family in a remote mountain (in the Andes?) in South America was difficult to follow if I tried to keep all the characters straight. Every generation had similar names, not only for the male lineage, but also for the women in the families. The founder of the family and the village, José Arcadio Buendía, and a son, Aureliano Buendía, provide names for multiple descendents through the Arcadio and Aureliano names. I gave up trying to follow these relationships and simply took delight in the many stories of war and peace, chicanery and loves and sexual activities that were detailed in this lengthy history of the beginning of a village until its destruction a century later. How Márquez kept the many characters and events straight was indeed a phenomenal achievement. In fact, his book took a Nobel Prize. Reading a few chapters at a time was the only way I could manage this voluminous creation, but it was worth the effort. The humor, the hijinks, the sorrows and tragedies all kept me reading to the end, of over 450 pages.
In contrast, Rabbi Lerner’s non-fiction study (also around 450 pages) of the disturbing and frustrating relationship between Israel and Palestine, particularly since 1947, held my attention for other reasons. Lerner’s Network of Spiritual Progressives and his Tikkun Community provide the basis for his current efforts to find a sure path toward healing and community between Israel and Palestine. In his study of the current situation and a broad historical view leading up to the present, I found this clear account enlightening. His strategies for healing the relationships between these two people, his detailed steps for ending the terrible conditions that exist for everyone in that land, are a light we could follow successfully if only this effort were realized.
Reading two books at the same time has become for me helpful in keeping up both with important publications and what I love so much: mysteries and the methods for solving those mysteries. My current very favorite reading has been with the Canadian author Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series set in Quebec. I would dearly love to live in Three Pines among all those delightful characters. Now on the latest of that series I am already sad that another is not waiting in line. The author recently spent time in Durham, but alas, I was not able to be there to see and hear her.
Old age is a great time to catch up on the books that were once put aside in deference to required reading for degrees, or for learning skills about writing, or some other Important Reason. Now I can read what I want, in both Kindle and real book forms.