In the Prologue to Strange Pilgrims, Gabriel Garcia Marquez talks about a dream where he goes to his own funeral and sees all his friends there, but when he wants to leave with them, he's told he's the only one who can't go to the after-party. (That's right, in dreams there are always after-parties.) Well, Marquez relates this being-left-behind to expatriation and isolation. Sounds heady, I know, but as a minority and an adoptee, isolation is all up in my writing's business, so I thought I'd talk about it. I thought I'd talk about setting as well, so be prepared for the following mess.
So here's what I'm thinking. Sure, Marquez uses the unfamiliarity of the setting to isolate his characters. Why not? They're pilgrims, after all. But when they really feel isolated is when they run into things that should be familiar to them but aren't. Like when the Prez in the opening story runs into people from his home country who lie to him about their motives.
Marquez also uses the ole pathetic fallacy, where the Prez's thoughts are mirrored by the weather and place. This is okay if you're going for the magical realism thing. Yet what is it Charles Baxter says about the pathetic fallacy--that a setting can be stronger when it doesn't rely on the character? I think there's something damn good to say for that. The character should experience isolation in spite of what's around him. I'm just saying, it gets a little tiresome to see rain when someone's sad, sunshine when happy, no one around when the character feels lonely. Why not let your characters feel lonely when they probably shouldn't? It's more lonely when you're sitting next to someone and still feel alone.
Depressing and serious. I'll try for something more ridiculous in my next post, I promise. Let's just say my dreams are about dinosaurs and The Paris Review. Don't ask.