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!)
In the last couple of days I finished Hercule Poirot’s Casebook- 700+ pages of Agatha Christie goodness, some of which I’d previously read; Diary by Chuck Palahniuk, which I think is his best work yet; and Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf, a book I picked up from the library because the title reminded me of a song lyric that I still can’t pin down.
It turned out to be a very interesting book to read directly following Diary. Both are about small towns and the interplay of individual vs. community- what it takes for communities to survive. Where You Once Belonged is a very interesting character study, a look at what happens in a community when people get used to getting by not on merit but inertia; when the fangs are directed at the undeserving because the deserving have left town. In Diary, people are dependent on the legacy they’ve been left, the cycle of violence that keeps their little island prosperous. In the same way as the people of WYOB, they get by through inertia, waiting for destiny to happen, for the “woman who paints” to save them.
Other un-put-together thoughts on themes in Diary- ( I love the way Palahniuk’s books are full of social criticism, but never outright – he lets you pick through and figure out what you think. Or maybe he’s just lazy, who knows.)
Cycles we set in place for the future, the legacy of violence, of dependence: Because of the cycle that has been put in place the people of the island are never taught responsibility, never made to take care of money because they know it will be replenished. They hate the Summer people and feel helpless against their “invasions” of the island, yet don’t do anything to stop them- just keep on living their “destiny”.
Art as danger to artist and viewer, the power of art to destroy- rather way people use art to destroy both artist and viewer.
What we hide- anger, the truth: All of Peter’s anger and his truth, unspoken in life, is scribbled on the walls of the closed off rooms- Misty finds the truth hidden in the pages of the books in the library.
Use of art to create freedom, but is it freedom? : Misty draws as a child to free herself from her humdrum life, seeing everything so clearly in her imagination that real life becomes dull in comparison. Is this freedom, or a greater trap? Later, her art is so captivating that people can’t stop looking at it…
Current total: 19
Just finished:Where You Once Belonged by Kent Haruf
Next up: to finish We Love Glenda So Much by Julio Cortazar, then The Society of Friends by Kelly Cherry
I’d like it noted that I could be counting the book I’m currently reading, Hercule Poirot’s Case book, as 7- as its a collection of Poirot Investigates, Dead Man’s Mirror, the Regatta Mystery, Labors of Hercules, Three blind Mice, the under Dog, Double Sin. However, for now, I’m only counting it as one. I might change my mind later though.
So I finished Live From New York, which I very much enjoyed. The format was nice, easy to pick up and put down as needed- a nice airplane book, which was useful as I’ve been on planes lately. I went up to visit my sister and her beautiful babies, which put my priorities for that week in a different place than reading. Once I got back I finished My Point, and I do Have One by Ellen DeGeneres, which I picked up one day when I was in a bad mood and needed something to cheer me up- it did the trick. I love her rambling humor, and her continuing commentary on her fight with her editor over what words count toward her contracted total is really funny. (When you say Blah, blah, blah, blah do all the blahs count as words?) I’m 2 books behind where I should be to hit 100 by the end of the year, I’ll have to catch those up soon.
Current total: 15
Just finished: My Point, and I Do Have One- Ellen DeGeneres
Next Up: Not sure, maybe Emma or 500 Years Later