I could talk about Garcia Marquez for hours.
As he was the first Latin American author whose work I read, the first author who told stories that I recognized as being like the stories I heard about my family’s history, the first writer whose stories were recognizably about me, he holds an important place in my heart.
I could also talk about how “Love in the Time of Cholera” is one my favorite novels and how its tale of love denied and then snatched away from death at the last minute is the story I tell myself to get to sleep at night.
But instead, I’ll tell you this.
When I was in my 20’s I used to work at an independent bookstore in Los Angeles (Book Soup). I was in the back opening in some boxes when I saw Garcia Marquez walk by me.
My heart just stopped.
I mean, I’d seen his face hundreds of times and he already held such an important place in my heart, had influenced my style of writing. I was just bowled over. And keep in mind, I’d worked in bookstores for years, had met dozens of authors, and working at Book Soup, I’d had run-ins with dozens of motion picture personalities… He was far from the most important man I’d met, but he was the most important to me.
He hadn’t taken two steps past me, before he turned and smiled. He recognized me as someone who might speak Spanish and politely asked if I might show him where he could find a good English to Spanish Dictionary. In my best Spanglish, I took him to the section and pointed out the ones I used.
And then I was stuck there. I couldn’t walk away. He was right there. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the author of “One Hundred Years Of Solitude”. I had to say something.
“I just want you to know that “One Hundred Years of Solitude” changed my life.” I told him in my very best Spanish.
He looked up at me and smiled warmly, “It changed mine too.”