FACE TO FACE WITH GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ

January 24, 2013 

Haresh Shah

My Close Encounter With The (Angry) Master of Magical Realism

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It’s October 29, 1982.  The master of magical realism – Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez has just won the Nobel Prize.  Playboy magazine has in its inventory a recently concluded interview with him, conducted by the veteran journalist, Claudia Dreifus.  The interview has been transcribed from hours and hours of time Ms. Dreifus spent talking with García Márquez in his Paris apartment.  It has been edited and ready to go – almost.  Playboy has promised García Márquez that it would show him the edited version, mainly to check facts and to point out inaccuracies.  As a matter of policy and editorial integrity, the magazine does not give the interview subjects right of approval.  Normally, Playboy closes most of its issues three to four months in advance.  García Márquez would make the trip to Stockholm in December to accept the Prize.  The interview must appear as close to the Nobel ceremony as possible.  This means, the scheduled February interview had to be pulled and be replaced by García Márquez interview.  The problem is; the elusive Nobel laureate is nowhere to be found. Several frenetic phone calls from Playboy editors to his house in Mexico City are answered again and again by his maid.  He has gone away on a month long vacation, leaving behind strict instructions that he didn’t wish to be reached.

The executive editor G. Barry Golson has drafted me to hand carry the interview to Mexico and do whatever was necessary in trying to track down the suddenly disappeared author and get his seal of approval.  With then editor of Playboy’s Mexican edition, Miguel Arana and I drive over to García Márquez’s home in the ritzy southern suburb of the city.  I encounter the maid face-to-face.  She is polite, but firm in telling us that she couldn’t indulge to us where we could find the master of the house.  After initial conversation, I tell her that I was going to park myself right outside the house in the fashion of  passive resistance, until she could tell me his whereabouts.  She just couldn’t.  But she promises  to mention to García Márquez of our being camped out at the front gate of his house,  when and if he calls in.  An hour or so later, she hands me a piece of paper.  Written on it is a phone number of Hotel El Quijote in San Luis Potosi, a dusty town in north-central Mexico,  some 225  miles out of Mexico City, reachable only through mostly unpaved country roads.  After all day of calling the hotel and leaving messages that are never answered, I finally hear his voice on the other side of the line. He sounds congenial but tired.  He agrees to meet with me the next afternoon at his hotel in San Luis Potosi.  I leave very early in the morning to make it in time for our rendezvous.

He is not in his room.  Not in the hotel restaurant or the lobby bar either. I patiently pace the hotel property.  I circle the large swimming pool and admire his shiny BMW parked outside his room.  Eventually, I  plunk  myself down in the lobby bar overlooking the entrance to the hotel.  I sit there in excess of four hours, observing every single person entering and leaving the lobby — drowning beer after beer and munching on tortilla chips and salsa.  I don’t even once wonder why we had to go through what I am going through, just so our interview subject  can look at the transcript.  I think to myself  that’s one of the many reasons why Playboy Interview and its format and depth have become ultimate yardstick against which all the journalistic efforts in the question and answer format are measured.

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It is getting to be late.  I am beginning to lose my patience. I am exhausted and have consumed all the beer I could manage that day.  And I am absolutely famished!  I am trying to decide whether I should order something to eat when I suddenly notice short and stocky frame of Garbriel García Márquez entering the lobby.  With him is a young lady I perceive to be in her mid-thirties, who I find out later is Marilise Simons, the Mexican correspondent to The New York Times.  I rush to greet him.  He apologizes for making me wait so long, while Marilise comes to his aid with  “it was all my fault. My car broke down on the way over.” Doesn’t matter. Like an answered prayer, Gabriel García Márquez  is standing in front of me face-to-face.  He asks  me and Marilise to accompany him to his suite.  The front room is littered with the magazines, newspapers and loose manuscript pages piled next to a manual typewriter perched atop a cabinet in vertical position.  He is in San Luis Potosi to help with the screenplay of his book Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother, being filmed there with Greek actress Irene Papas in the leading role. And also following him on the location is the French television crew, making a documentary of his life. Now at last he has a moment to pause and catch a breath.

As the three of us settle around the large round table in the middle of the room, he still looks harried and exhausted.  I hand him the galley.  The cover letter from Barry  states that we needed to have his comments within three days and that he should restrict his changes to the facts and the possible distortion in translation. As he reads on, I see the congenial expressions of his face slowly turning, first into disgust and then into visible anger.

“I am furious at Playboy.”  He is livid as he hurls the pages in his hands on the table with a loud thud. “I feel betrayed because Claudia (Dreifus) had promised that I would have the right to make any changes in the interview before its publication. And that I would be given enough time to be able to thoroughly go through it.”   He continues on,  telling me that  the interview was concluded several months ago, why couldn’t they have sent him the typescript in the interim?  In fact, he was given to understand that it  was postponed indefinitely. “ Now just because I have won the Nobel Prize, Playboy suddenly wants to have it yesterday! Had I not won the Nobel, they probably would have killed it entirely.”

I am not quite prepared for his emotional outburst and the Latin temper.  I am one of his biggest fans,  I tell him,  and he realizes that it comes from the heart.  I tell him that the Nobel or not, he is one of the most important literary figures of our time.  If Playboy thought any lesser of him, they wouldn’t have sent a personal emissary to hand carry it to him and to show him our goodwill.  And I ask him, were he still reporting for El Tiempo or El Espectador, would he not want to run the interview with himself right now?

“But I don’t need any more publicity!” He says lamely. Still looking quite angry.

“Sr, García Márquez, if  I may. This interview is not meant to publicize you. But to give your readers a deeper understanding of your ideas and your philosophy. As you know, Playboy has published many of your fictions. I have read all of them and have also read your books.  I read our interview with you on my flight over here, and I must say, as one of  your avid fans, it has enlightened me enormously of my understanding of you as a man and of your work,  more than ever before. And I am sure, so would your readers around the world.”

I realize I am pontificating, but he could sense that I am being honest. It hits home and  seems to calm him down somewhat. He promises to get back to us within the requested time frame of three days.  Before I leave, he switches to a conciliatory tone in that we talk about insignificant things for a few minutes and then about the Indian Nobel winner, the poet Rabindranath Tagore. He then apologizes profusely for taking it all out on me, but then concludes with pragmatic “that’s what happens to the messengers!”

On my way over to see him, I had wanted to ask some additional questions to update the interview, but the way things turned out, it just wasn’t in the cards. At the very last minute all I could think of asking him was something I had read in that week’s Time magazine, in which he had said that to accept his award in Stockholm, he intends to wear the traditional Mexican guayabera, a light weight shirt worn outside  the trousers. When Time asked, his answer: “To avoid putting on a tuxedo, I’ll stand the cold.” When I referred to it and asked him; why? His answer to me is: “Superstition.” More like it. Something a character of magical realism would say.

Before heading back to Mexico City, I decide to put something in my stomach.  All I had all day long was huevos rancheros.  I sit down, order another beer and some enchiladas verde and mull over my forty-five some minutes with the man who had just won the most prestigious literary  prize in the world.  His wrath has me unsettled for a while.  But then I think of the interviewer Peter Ross Range and how CNN boss Ted Turner had turned violent during their interview, grabbing his tape recorder and smashing  it on the aisle of the first class cabin of an airliner and how he  had  then snatched his camera bag and practically destroyed the tapes containing their conversation.  How the Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci would throw temper tantrums at her interviewer Robert Scheer when he turned the tables on her, confronting Fallaci  with the questions she didn’t like.  And how Alex Haley, the author of Roots endured the overt racism while the “führer” of the American Nazi party, George Lincoln Rockwell,  outlined to him  his intentions to ship “niggers” back to Africa.

At least, I had the pleasure of having encountered face-to-face one of my most favorite writers, and be able to tell him how much I admired his work.  On my way over from Chicago, I had picked up brand new copies of  two of his books, recently published in their quality paperback editions — the ones of which he had not yet even gotten author’s copies.

My hunger contained and the euphoric feeling of having mission accomplished, I just couldn’t make myself to get back to the car and head back to Mexico City. With my heart fluttering, I slowly walk back to his room.  He himself answers the knock on his door.

“I am sorry, to bother  you again, I almost feel like a teenager, but I just couldn’t bring myself to leave without asking you to autograph these books for me.”  By now he looks like a different person.  The interview transcript in form of the galley proofs is spread out all over the table.  “Look, I am already working for Playboy,”  he says with a wry smile pointing at the strewn pages.  Marilise sitting behind his back smiles and flashes the thumb up at me.  He sits down and writes in first of the two books I have brought: No One Writes to Colonel, Para Haresh, de su colerico amigo, Gabriel ’82 and in the second: Leaf Storm, he draws an olive branch on the title page inside and writes, “Para Haresh, con un lomo de olivos, and signs it.

© Haresh Shah 2013

Illustration: Jordan Rutherford

CLIMBING BOLTS FOUND ON 1,000-YEAR-OLD PETROGLYPHS IN UTAH ~ The Colorado Sun

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The line of bolts was inserted into the middle of a large rock-art image left by Indigenous people more than 1,000 years ago

The Associated Press

Apr 17, 2021

(Unsplash photo)

COLORADO SPRINGS — Federal public lands officials are investigating after climbing bolts damaged an ancient petroglyph site near Moab, Utah.

The line of bolts was inserted into the middle of a large rock-art image left by Indigenous people more than 1,000 years ago, climber Darrin Reay told the Colorado Springs Gazette. He saw the bolts last week on the outcrop known as Sunshine Wall north of Arches National Park.

Reay said he was was “horrified and angry.” Reports of the damage online sparked a storm of outrage. The bolts have since been removed, but damage to the petroglyphs is forever, said Elizabeth Hora, archaeologist for the Utah State Historic Preservation Office.

She said it’s heartbreakingly common around the state where Ancestral Puebloans and Fremont people left their marks. And vandalism increased over the last year, as more people flocked to the outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic, she said. Still, “we firmly believe here in our office that shaming and blaming is not the way to make change.”

A Colorado Springs man, 36-year-old Richard Gilbert, took responsibility in an interview with the Gazette. He said he mistook the rock art for graffiti when he placed the bolts used by climbers to anchor their clips. When he realized what he had done, he said he reported to a ranger at Moab’s Bureau of Land Management field office.

The agency declined to provide details to the newspaper or confirm whether Gilbert was behind the damage, calling it an active investigation. Officials did warn people against “harassment or threatening behavior.”

Under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act, first-time violators could be fined up to $20,000 and imprisoned for up to one year.

Gilbert said he typically puts in climbing bolts to help young climbers or those with disabilities. Bolting for low-grade routs is generally frowned upon in climbing circles.

“Mistakes are made, and that doesn’t make it any better, I know,” Gilbert said. “It’s not. I made a mistake.”

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

What a trippy film. It examines various situational narratives which I think most women have experienced (male macho energy) in one form or another. A very dark and humorous comedy.

rŌbert

~~~ WATCH TRAILER ~~~

Emerald Fennell, director/writer on Promising Young Woman (2020)] How dedicated and brilliant every single person was who came on board, and they all did it because they believed in it. It was a low-budget, 23-day shoot with a first-time director. Their hard work has been rewarded. I’m especially so proud of Carey Carey Mulligan, who is truly the best person in the world. She is the film.

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Promising Young Woman is a 2020 black comedy thriller film starring Carey Mulligan as a woman who seeks to avenge the death of her best friend, who was a victim of rape. Bo BurnhamAlison BrieClancy BrownJennifer CoolidgeLaverne Cox, and Connie Britton co-star. The film was written and directed by Emerald Fennell in her feature directorial debut.

Promising Young Woman had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020, and was theatrically released in the United States on December 25, 2020, by Focus Features. It received positive reviews, with praise for its screenplay, its direction, and Mulligan’s performance. The film earned five nominations at the 93rd Academy Awards, including Best PictureBest Director, and Best Actress for Mulligan. It was named one of the ten best films of 2020 by the National Board of Review, with Mulligan also winning Best Actress, received four nominations at the 78th Golden Globe Awards, and six nominations at the 74th British Academy Film Awards, where it won Outstanding British Film and Best Original Screenplay.

everything I have learned from snow ~ Bernie Arndt

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What ever I think I know
inevitably turns out to be
untrue,
incomplete
or just plain wrong.

Affairs of the heart
burn so hot
as to overwhelm
most other knowledge.
And, as alchemists do, the heart
transforms everything it encounters
into its own notion of Truth.

Bernie Arndt (1949 – )

Alexey Kljatov snowflake photos
crédito total, Burnham Arndt Esq.

Gospel Singer Elizabeth King Hits A Musical Milestone At 77

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At the age of 77, Memphis sacred soul singer Elizabeth King is releasing her first full-length album, Living in the Last Days. She talks about it with NPR’s Debbie Elliott.

~~~ LISTEN ~~~

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