LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA
Almost two decades after One Hundred Years of Solitude, Garcia Marquez has delivered another long, woolly, at times wonderful but consistently elective novel. Elective in the sense that, like One Hundred Years (a book more grazed-in than fully read, the candid reader will admit), you can loll in the lushness and the brilliant details and the generous metaphors, but getting up and walking out of Garcia Marquez's imagination is fairly easy to do: it's a book that doesn't hold on to you. But maybe here it doesn't mean to--it's a story of a decades-long love triangle that bridges the turn of the century in a Caribbean sea-coast town. The principals are a merchant-trader, Florentino Ariza; the sheltered and beautiful Fermina Daza; and the starchy physician who marries her, Dr. Juvenal Urbino de la Calle. Ariza is a born lover, patient beyond belief, in love with love (platonic and sexual), an eroticist of impressive concentration--and his conquests and griefs at least keep the book moving chronologically. Which it only rarely seems to want to do; Garcia Marquez's talent is for peripherals: tastes, comments, colors, sounds, all flocking spectacularly inside any given paragraph like iron filings. The style everywhere is rich and good-humored, but, except for isolated scenes (such as the doctor's confession to his wife of a late-in-life indiscretion), it focuses on the paragraph more than on the chapter. And little finally distinguishes these gorgeous paragraphs--story-turns never undermine them, and you suspect they're there to be admired more than felt. Still, there's almost nothing here (thankfully) of Garcia Marquez's cloying political ironies dressed up as mysteries and cosmogonies; and the stylish sexual histories are fun and will be popular. Broad and brilliant as it is, though, there's an awful lot about a little here--a candy-box of a novel: more paper slots and creamy centers than something hard to bite down on.