Forming Rich Images - "This Is A Cow"

Something a little different from our regular hard edged techniques. It’s my strong opinion that the way to build persistent memories is to make them rich. There are experts at weaving rich images with nothing more than words and there is a vast treasure of their work in the form of Literature. Here is the opening line from

100 Years of Solitude / Gabriel Marquez

The opening line is my all time favorite.

“Many years later as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

It is of course meant to intrigue you, to tease you to read on. Look at how rich the imagery is and how many things are brought together. I read this book, perhaps before you were born, and I have never forgotten that sentence.

The next is wonderful too.

. “At that time Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs”

Marquez was a Nobel Laureate. Not many can write like that. But if you read him and soak in the rich images he paints, you begin to acquire your own vocabulary and a feeling for how to add depth to an image. Each sentence is a little painting.

It is a fictional book about a small community in S. America which is cut off from the outside and the strange world that evolves when a community is no longer subject to the normalizing effects of a larger population.

It is written in the form of Magical Realism. A genre that is popular in Spanish literature. It’s not about magic or fantasy but the laws of nature are different from our world and the author is very matter of fact about it. Here is the next line

" The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. "

And there’s no further explanation, the story just goes forward…

“Every year during the month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions”

Just four sentences and Marquez has brought you into the middle of his strange world. He is a wizard.

It is in fact about memory and other things. For their memories were the last of their contact with the outside world. At one point the town is hit by a sickness and people lose their memories. They have to put signs around - “This is a cow” But it’s a poet’s take of course. He is pointing out how stark and thin is the description in the sign compared to the richness of the memory that was lost.

I am not a literary person and these days I have not been reading much fiction. But I had a great deal of this in my background and it has served me in many ways.

This kind of thing is not to everybody’s taste, but if you want to stretch your capacity to imagine and describe beautiful images, this is one source of ideas and inspiration. At least it has been so for me.

I highly recommend the book for its own sake. Marquez needs no endorsement from me. It is a fascinating, fun and very moving.

It is a renowned piece of literature so you get “snob points” for reading it, or even just pretending to have read it. Drop off hand references here and there. And, to wit, I’m going to have to reread it myself.

That’s the English. Of course if you have Spanish that’s the first choice, but then you probably have already read it. :slight_smile:

You can probably find it for $5 used on Amazon.


Saving those quotes in my notes. The image of the ice is so vivid it’s like I can taste it. Also with the prehistoric eggs, brilliant! Dunno how I could use this for memory techniques but you have me thinking, thanks for the post

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