by Annalisa Quinn)
The instantly recognizable man with the immaculate white moustache was a novelist, but he was also a journalist, a political agitator and a celebrity with a reach unlike any writer since Mark Twain. When Gabriel Garcia Marquez died Thursday at the age of 87, presidents, authors, actors and pop stars made public statements. Colombia, his native country, declared three days of mourning. Marquez often said that he disliked his fame, but he used it to promote political and social change, using, for example, his Nobel Prize acceptance speech in 1982 as a platform to talk about the "oppression, plundering and abandonment" of Latin America. He called for a "new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth." That same year, he told The New York Times that "the problems of our societies are mainly political. And the commitment of a writer is with the reality of all of society, not just with a small part of it. If not, he is as bad as the politicians who disregard a large part of our reality."
Romanian poet Nina Cassian died this week in New York City, where she has lived in exile since secret police under the Stalinist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu found her poems mocking the regime. She was 89. "She had always been fragile, one way or another — yet it was hard to think of her as anything short of immortal," her friend the documentary maker Mona Nicoara told The Associated Press. Cassian's poem "The Orchestra," which appeared in The New Yorker in 1990, ends with these lines:
"The orchestra is still. The score is blank.
Cold as a slide rule the brasses, strings, and flute.
Sonorous love, when will you return?
The orchestra is mute."
The title of Hillary Clinton's forthcoming memoir will be Hard Choices — and not, as she joked, The Scrunchie Chronicles: 112 Countries and It's Still All About My Hair, a title submitted to a Washington Post contest to name the book. It is set to be published on June 10 by Simon & Schuster.
Promiscuous book blurber Gary Shteyngart has announced his retirement from blurbing: "It is with deep sadness that I announce that the volume of requests has exceeded my abilities, and I will be throwing my 'blurbing pen' into the Hudson River during a future ceremony, time and place to be determined. However, I will continue to blurb the following individuals: all former, present, and future students of mine at Columbia University; authors of my Random House editor, David Ebershoff; authors of my agent, Denise Shannon; my B.F.F.s; authors who can prove they own a long-haired dachshund and are taking good care of same."
Guernica's Jonathan Lee interviews Fiona McCrae, publisher of the independent press Graywolf. She says, "There are dozens of obstacles to any given book succeeding. If a book succeeds it always does so against the odds. The odds in one generation might relate to the fact that people would rather be watching television than reading your book. The odds in the next generation might be that they'd rather be on their computer than reading your book. Once it was that people would rather be riding a bicycle than reading your book. It doesn't do any good to be talking, as an author or publisher, about the obstacles."