Saturday, May 3, 2014

Work Philosophy from Gabriel García Márquez

I'm often at least a few beats behind the tune on news that doesn't involve economics or policy, so I just heard a few days ago that Gabriel García Márquez who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982 for One Hundred Years of Solitude and other works, died on April 17. I could see the genius in his work, but it was never among my favorites: the magic in his "magic realism" felt to me a little too contrived and mannered. But I was reading in English translation, not in Spanish, and what do I know about literature, anyway?

I do have a quotation from Marquez up on my office door that conveys a home truth about my own work life. It's from an interview with him that was published in the Boston Review (March-April 1983, pp. 26-27), and later reprinted in the 2006 collection Conversations with Gabriel Garcia Marquez, edited by Gene H. Bell-Villada (p. 137). He was asked about how he felt about One Hundred Years of Solitude being used as a required reading in college courses and cited by academics. Here's part of his answer:

"On another occasion a sociologist from Austin, Texas, came to see me because he'd grown dissatisfied with his methods, found them arid, insufficient. So he asked me what my own method was. I told him I didn't have a method. All I do is read a lot, think a lot, and rewrite constantly. It's not a scientific thing."

I'm the managing editor of an academic economics journal, and an occasional lecturer and writer. That ethic might serve as a useful motto for editors everywhere.