Firstly, my experience with GGM is very limited and my experience with CADS is zero. This is surprising, considering my love for magical realist fiction (which began in grad school because of Professor A. Gilson). However, I have only ever read "A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings" probably once in high school and once again in college. Secondly, I enjoy books that come with a family tree on the inside.
What stood out to me in the first 40 or so pages were the concepts of discovery and knowledge (and how one acquires it). For JAB, sometimes the collection of knowledge was contingent on calculations and "directional instruments" (10). Sometimes, discovery only came when JAB's naiveté of the surrounding geography frustrated him to act. Sometimes, physical travel was hindered by JAB's lack of confidence, and therefore stifling his attainment of knowledge. Discovery would come from visitors. From the past. Perhaps knowledge isn't only extracted from how far you can see, how far you can walk. Knowledge will come even if you aren't looking for it. Even on an island. Even for a man of science. A practical man. Any kind of person.
And, isn't there a distinction among knowledge, discovery and learning? Learning means retaining, growing. Discovery means experiencing. Knowledge could be anything...fleeting, temporary, unnoticed...
I also liked the concept of how the past can be found as something physical--a path leading to memories so overwhelming that the men had to flee. Yes, objects serve as a reminder, a trigger for the past. But what about visiting--physically--the past. Often, I think of the past as purely a mental exercise--and this is part of what I love about magical realism--but I suppose it doesn't have to be only emotional or mental. It can be physical. You can physically go there and want to leave.