I cannot read Marxists — or, why I do not mourn Gabriel García Márquez’s passing

Karl MarxI was so naive when I went to Cal. I didn’t realize that, in my history and English classes, the material we read was either created in the first instance by Marxists or, if it predated Marxists, was first run through a Marxist analytical filter either before or immediately after we read it.  All I knew was that I thought the material was nonsensical and, because of their adulatory prosing about it, that my professors were idiots.

It says a lot about the quality of education at Cal that, simply by parroting the teachers’ stupidity back to them, I managed to graduate from Cal Magna Cum Laude.  I even still have my little Phi Beta Kappa key hanging from a nail on the wall in my office. I offer these snippets of academic accomplishment not to boast, but to denigrate both the material used and the quality of teaching at Cal. My academic accomplishments are an embarrassing symbol of Cal’s deficiencies as an educational institution. To the extent I consider myself an educated person, I attribute that to my being an autodidact, hungry for knowledge, not to being a high level graduate of one of the world’s top universities.

Law school, at least, had the virtue of being nothing more than a fancy trade school. I had decent professors, wonderful peers, and enjoyed myself there. I managed for the most part to avoid indoctrination. Interestingly, in a setting in which I actually had to learn stuff and think, as opposed to just parroting back cant, I was a good, solid graduate, rather than a top one. My sub-stellar performance also resulted from the fact that I was quite ill during part of my time there, which proved to be a drag on my GPA.  (And yes, my ego demands that caveat.)

When I left law school, I vowed never to go back to a formal education system, a promise I’ve kept to this day. I find it exhausting merely to attend Open Houses at my kids very fine public schools. I have to fight against the urge to run out screaming when I hear the nice teachers lecture the nice parents about the topics and methodology they use when lecturing our nice kids during the school day. As the old hippie would say, “That’s not my scene, man.”

A sport of natureAlthough I vowed never to return to school, I have been in a variety of book clubs over the years, purely for social reasons. All of them have been run by nice young or middle-aged women who trust in the New York Times, the New Yorker, and high-end fashion magazines to tell them what they ought to read. That’s how I ended up having to read two authors I’d successfully avoided during my formal education:  Gabriel García Márquez and Nadine Gordimer.

To say that I loathed the Márquez and Gordimer books is to speak in delicate understatement. I hated their writing style; I hated their topics; I hated their values — I hated everything from cover to cover. As my well-intentioned friends struggled to find meaning in the books, I kept saying that the books were poorly written, boring, and unreasonable, and that their principles and conclusions were wrong.

I did not say back then that Márquez and Gordimer were Marxist because, back in the 1980s, I did not know that they were. In any event, as a nicely indoctrinated party-line Democrat, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to criticize anything on that particular ground.

I just knew that I hated reading these much-lauded books in exactly the same way I hated reading Supreme Court opinions (this was back in the late 1980s) by the liberal wing of the Supreme Court. I knew that I ought to admire Marshall and Stevens and Brennan, and that I should hate Rehnquist and Burger, but the fact was that the former group wrote complex, unintelligible, illogical opinions, whereas the latter (as well as all other conservative justices but for the flopsy, wobbly Sandra Day O’Connor) wrote tight, well-reasoned, easy to follow opinions.  I eventually concluded that, because Marxism doesn’t work in the real world, any writing advancing Marxist principles must be muddled, vague, and unreasonable to hide that fact.

Now Márquez is dead and, while an individual’s death must always be a tragedy for his family and close friends, I feel no sense of loss. Instead, I agree entirely with the DiploMad, who has no problem speaking ill of the Marxist dead:

Love in the time of CholeraIn other good news, this time in Latin America, the Nobel-prize winning novelist Gabriel García Márquez is dead.

One of the great phonies and bootlickers of leftist dictators has passed from the scene. Those who love freedom can only be grateful.

I will speak ill of the dead. It is hard to exaggerate the damage that GGM has done to the image of Latin America and Latin Americans, portraying the region and the people as some sort of quasi-magical place, a place filled with ethereal, mystical beings without logic, common sense, and ordinary human emotions and foibles. For all his “magical realist” vision, he could not or would not see, for example, the horrors brought to Cuba and Cubans by the Castro brothers. On the contrary, he had an enormous house in Havana provided by the regime, with servants and cars at his beck-and-call, and a ready chummy access to the bloodstained brothers and their rule of terror. He convinced generations of gringo academic Latin American “specialists” that the region could not be understood in conventional terms; that supply-and-demand economics did not work there; and that ordinary people did not want individual liberty and political democracy. He helped perpetrate and perpetuate a horrid stereotype of Latin America, one in which the atrocities of leftist regimes could be ignored because the region operated on another level of consciousness, one beyond our poor powers to comprehend. Good riddance to this poseur and his unreadable sentences! An enemy of freedom is gone.

Hear! Hear! Yes! Absolutely. The DiploMad is correct in every respect. I knew then that I couldn’t stand Márquez’s loopy, unhinged prose, nor his loopy, unhinged ideas. Thirty years later, I not only understand the problem (Marxism), I have the pleasure of reading someone who gets it and states it better than I ever could.

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  • Ron19

    I’ve found that if a book or author is considered “deep” it’s because their book is poorly written by an incompetent explainer who barely or at least incompletely understands the topic, usually less than I understand the topic, even if this is the first I’ve read or heard about it. 
    I’ve also found that as my knowledge base gets broader and broader, it becomes easier not only to understand anything, but also to identify quality writing and explaining from poor and mediocre stuff.
    Possibly the most easily understood book I’ve ever read was a small book explaining the Theory of Relativity, (Relativity: The Special and General Theory) written for the common person, by Dr. Albert Einstein himself.  Even after being translated, it is still a joy to read and very informative.  In trying to understand why I must have missed something important, not being a physicist myself, reading other books by Physics professors, etc., I find that they often don’t even know relativity as well as I do.  (An important exception to this is Dr. Richard Feynman)
    Sorry for all the “I” ‘s here; I’ve been overexposed to the smartest man in the room, nay, in the World!

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      Your first paragraph, Ron19, nails it.

  • FunkyPhD

    I tried to read A Thousand Years of Solitude.  Threw it across the room halfway through the first paragraph. The author’s self-importance was unendurable. 

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm


  • JKB

    I wonder why we conflate education with schooling….still.  I did as well until I started reading on education, old writings about education.  Pre-1930, after which our educational system seemed to have lost the insights of the past.  
    Such as:
    “What we become depends on what we read after all of the professors have finished with us. The greatest university of all is a collection of books. ”
    Thomas Carlyle 
    “A person can no more be trained into a thinker by lecturing to him than he can into a gymnast.” – Simon Newcomb
    “Thinking leads man to knowledge. He may see and hear, and read and learn whatever he pleases, and as much as he pleases; he will never know anything of it, except that which he has thought over, that which by thinking he has made the property of his own mind. Is it then saying too much if I say that man, by thinking only, becomes truly man? Take away thought from man’s life, and what remains?”- Johann Pestalozzi
     Usage: Education, properly a drawing forth, implies not so
              much the communication of knowledge as the discipline
              of the intellect, the establishment of the principles,
              and the regulation of the heart. Instruction is that
              part of education which furnishes the mind with
              knowledge. Teaching is the same, being simply more
              familiar. It is also applied to practice; as, teaching
              to speak a language; teaching a dog to do tricks.
              Training is a department of education in which the
              chief element is exercise or practice for the purpose
              of imparting facility in any physical or mental
              operation. Breeding commonly relates to the manners
              and outward conduct.
              [1913 Webster]
    “The senior on his graduation day is not an educated man; he is an ignoramus.  However, if he has learned enough to know that he is an ignoramus, some day he will probably attain something like culture, have enough knowledge to be called educated–as education in this world goes.” 
    — Marks, Percy, “Under Glass”, Scribner’s Magazine Vol 73, 1923, p 47

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Thanks for those great quotations, JKB.

  • jj

    When an a$$hole dies, what you have is a dead a$$hole, not a candidate for sainthood.  Far too many of us far too often behave as though dying were something reserved for the chosen few rather than the common lot.  Marquez was no better a writer than Ruth Buzzi Ginsburg, and for the same reason.  There are actually some Commie writers around with some talent: this was not one of them.

  • JohnC

    Sometimes a book is ‘deep’ because it’s actually just a deep pile of horse s-.

  • sabawa

    JJ….Ruth Buzzi Ginsburg…….now that put a smile on my face.   Hope she reads your little post.  It might put one on her face……and I am seriously off topic.  Sorry.

  • Wolf Howling

    I never had the misfortune to read the two authors you name, but I did get to read a fair amount of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky in one history course on socialism and communism.  The prof was just to the right of Ghengis Khan, so there was no attempt to indoctrinate, rather to ridicule and point out the many fallacies.  I did enjoy that course.  Actually, if you want a good laugh, go read translations of the hard left circa 1900, when the workers’ utopia was but around the corner.  Or if you want a real eye opener, go back and read Lenin’s diatribes against the Kulaks, then compare to virtually any speech by our class warrior in chief, Obama.  They are virtually indistinguishable.  
    That aside, I only comment to note that the “Nobel Prize,” while a true mark of excellence in the hard sciences, is today nothing more than an award of socialist achievement in most others, particularly literature and economics.  It is, to me at least, a (literal) red flag telling me not to waste my time reading any of their tomes.    

  • Danny Lemieux

    “I’ve found that if a book or author is considered “deep” it’s because their book is poorly written by an incompetent explainer who barely or at least incompletely understands the topic, usually less than I understand the topic, even if this is the first I’ve read or heard about it. ”
    It reminds me of my marijuana-addled peers in the 1970s who would listen and nod solemnly as some mediocre singer was blathering nonsensical lyrics force-fit to rhyme. “Deep, man, deep!”. And  yet, they could not admit that they had no idea of what the singer was claiming to communicate. Imagine, that. 
    I guess those potheads just grew up to become today’s self-adulating “scholars”.They are deep, alright…but not in the sense of what they would like to think of themselves.

  • lee

    Interesting piece at PJ Media on GGM:
    Learned a lot I never knew!
    And am also happy to be in the company of people like Bookworm–I found GGM dull, dull, and… dull.

  • Charles Martel

    What I’ve always liked about the Marxists is their ability to a.) love the suffering human race enough to b.) kill as many members of the race as necessary to express their love.
    It does make a psychotic sort of sense, like when PETA finances its loving efforts to save pets from exploitation by accepting payment for euthanizing tens of thousands of them per year. Works for me!

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      Got to burn humanity, to save humanity. Burn village=saved village.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Danny, I got something for you on that matter. http://neoneocon.com/2014/04/19/not-your-fathers-marijuana/
    At the bottom in the comments, people wee weeding it up in DC.

  • Spartacus

    Ann Coulter made a really good point in one of her pieces several years ago, which I will butcher from memory.  Many brilliant discoveries and concepts, she wrote, were brilliant in their discovery because they were highly counterintuitive.  But it does not necessarily follow that that which is counterintuitive is therefore brilliant; in fact, most things which are counterintuitive are so because they are… wrong.  Not brilliant.  Wrong.  And unfortunately, we have a lot of college sophomores (sophomores, including freshmen, juniors and seniors) who are in love with the first point and clueless of the second, and thus more inclined to believe that which is wrong than that which is right, precisely because it is wrong.

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      A lot of scientific models were considered canon or Authoritative, up until someone had an accident and the evidence was too strong and the engineering applications too useful, to ignore.

  • Kathy from Kansas

    I forced myself to get all the way to the end of Love in the Time of Cholera only because the book was a birthday gift from an old friend who was just sure I would love it. She thought I would love his beautiful language. All I knew was that I hated the characters and the story. All the pretty language in the world can’t dress up pointless, self-indulgent, nihilistic rot.
    Now I don’t feel bad for never getting around to the much-ballyhooed Hundred Years of Solitude. Life’s too short to waste on crappy books!