Books 3/19/04

Keeping up the observation that there are connections between the books I read, I noticed that the last 2 books I’ve read are both reminiscent of other books that I love.
Society of Friends by Kelly Cherry completly enthralled me, and I’m going to have to go buy it since the copy I have belongs to the library, and I know that I will want to read it over and over. I picked it up somewhat randomly, and checked it out when the back copy compared it to Winesburg, Ohio, another favorite. I actually think that it surpasses Winesburg, Ohio for me, and I think its really because the central character (if you can call her that, she’s the one everything keeps coming back to) is a woman, vs. the young man in Winesburg. That may seem sexist or something, but I was able to identify more with Nina, and I think over all it was a more “feminine” look at life- it would be interesting to read the two books back to back- I’ll have to do that. It was excellently written, the characters were all incredibly believable, and the unfolding of the characters over the course of the stories was fascinating to watch.
The other book was Grass by Sheri S. Tepper. I found this book on my desk at work, and was told that my co-workers had found it outside. According to a paper inside, it’s a traveling book- one that you find somewhere, read, then leave for someone else to find, and the cycle continues. Interesting idea. The book looked interesting- science fiction, which I haven’t read in a while, and I ended up reading it all in one go. It was really very good, and although it was similar in many ways to Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, it stood up just fine on its own. The similarities were interesting- people go to a foreign planet with 2 cultures, learn things about the “non-human” culture that “humans” there don’t know, realize there is a cycle of progressive life within “non-humans”, solve unexplained deaths (or disapearances), and come to some form of enlightenment.
The ultimate points of the books are different, but both bring up the tendency we have to put our values onto our studies of other cultures and in the process completely misunderstand them. An interesting observation made by one of the characters: no matter how much we try to be compassionate or understand or talk to others, it always comes down to strapping on as many weapons as we can to go out to kill them. Another interesting moment: Marjorie and her group catch some people trying to kill them, and tie them up to deal with them later. When they then go out to fight the hippae (the antagonistic non-humans), the foxen (non-antagonist non-humans) ask them why if they only tie up their own “bad ones”, they kill the hippae. Marjorie answers that with their own they can tie them up and it will stop them. They can’t do that with the hippae. Just got me thinking about the real life parallels- prisons vs. killing during war, etc..
Over all I liked Speaker for the Dead better, but in all fairness, as I said earlier, the books weren’t trying to accomplish the same things. (And it would be really difficult to beat SFTD, its one of the books that has affected me the most powerfully, ever.) Both had strong religious under and over tones, and I agreed with Scott’s underlying points more- Tepper’s concept of us all as “small things” that God doesn’t look at individually didn’t quite jibe with me, but was interesting.

Current Count: 21
Just Finished: Grass by Sheri S. Tepper
Next Up: 500 Years After by Stephen Brust (I’ve been trying to get to it for months!)

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