The clacking of keyboards, clicking of mice, creaking of chairs, clearing of throats, crunching of food—these are the sounds of the proofreading department in my office. The quiet is supposed to promote and support the intense concentration needed for the job.
Every day I pray for noise.
To me, silence is distracting…when other people are present. I become hyperaware of the sounds everyone makes because in the quiet, the slightest of noises are gross intrusions. I can’t help but fixate on the one or two sounds breaking the silence. They roll around in my head as annoying points of focus.
Oh, bless you for sneezing, Doug. Wow, Aimi sure is hammering away on her keyboard. And is that Carol munching on chips? Eat with your mouth closed, woman!
Even the intermittent noise of proofreading tasks, such as using the keyboard and mouse and flipping through books, is not steady or loud enough of a drone to qualify as soothing background noise. The silence reigns.
Only when there’s a steady murmur of chatter drifting in from the kitchen, the low whoosh of the air passing through the vents, the hum of the photocopier running, and the boisterous laugh of my boss ringing out can I focus and work in peace. Of course, too much noise can make it difficult to proofread, but a healthy level of this background noise is ideal for me.
One of the main reasons I struggle with silence when people are around is my own self-consciousness. With such quiet and how easily I can hear others, I know they can likewise hear me. I worry that my own noises carry to my fellow proofreaders’ ears and distract them as they distract me. There’s nothing like a stomach growl splitting through the air.
This is why I much prefer working alone, without anyone around. Silence when I am by myself is heavenly, peaceful, relaxing, and focus enhancing. On my own, there’s no one to make small, distracting noises that cut through the quiet. More important, there’s no one to hear my own noises. I’m not self-conscious of the silence, and I can turn my full concentration on my work.
So don’t get me wrong—I appreciate and value silence. Very much so. Just not when others are near. I appreciate their low, steady, and full background noise instead. A slightly noisy office is easiest to tune out and best to concentrate in, as counter-intuitive as that sounds.
One Hundred Years of Solitude is a divisive book: you love it or you hate it.
The lovers say that you must utilize every ounce of your brainpower while embracing the magical realism to let the beauty seep into your being. The haters say that you must fight off confusion, boredom, and sleep to slog through the pointless nonsense if you want to waste one hundred years of your life.
Both are right. I can’t figure out what it is that I like about One Hundred Years of Solitude, because there is a lot that I don’t like about the novel.
Márquez wrote this book for its theme—not for its story and not for its characters. Across one hundred years and over four hundred pages, Márquez shows readers that life is a circle, filled with the extraordinary and the mundane and solitude.
As a result, we get seven generations’ worth of characters with variations on the same names. Characters whose motivations and actions are as muddy and inexplicable as the setting and its propensity toward atrophy. Characters who we can’t bring ourselves to care about because they are all secondary.
We get a non-linear storyline that prophesizes the future and holds on to the past. A storyline with pacing so uneven that the passage of time can only be measured by who has died and who has yet to die.
We get a narrator who tells and summarizes, rather than shows and dramatizes. A narrator who speaks in metaphors, symbols, and imagery instead of the truth. A narrator who favours long sentences and longer paragraphs. But even worse, we get a narrator who does not refrain from telling us what this story is all about.
And yet I enjoyed One Hundred Years of Solitude as much as I disliked it. Despite Márquez’s heavy-handed thematics and flowery style, his writing suits the story. There is an absorbing and poetic nature to his words that pushed me through the drudgery of the book. I neither love nor hate it; I like and dislike it.