It's the 1970s in the Pacific Northwest & all the typical teenager angst applies: popularity, figuring out what you want, & wondering if the pIt's the 1970s in the Pacific Northwest & all the typical teenager angst applies: popularity, figuring out what you want, & wondering if the people you call your friends are decent people. But there's a weird STD going around, one that causes the kids who are infected to physically change in various ways--some noticeable, some not. The story mainly follows Keith & Chris, two kids who go to the same high school, as they try to figure out how to grow up in a dead-end suburb with ostracism & frustrated hopes at every turn.
I've had this on my reading list ever since I came across the Washington Post book review that described the book's atmosphere as on par with Twin Peaks or the songs of Elliot Smith. And while the story certainly had enough existential gloom to satisfy me, I didn't totally fall in love with it. Burns's art is certainly beautiful & has plenty of visual symmetry & there are some interesting parallels that "the bug" can stand in for, like being gay, or poor, or addicted to some destructive behavior. The story itself was plenty of weird authentic moments strung together with a lot of intense what-ifs that didn't have the same desperation or emotional resonance. (In fact, I wonder if I had read this first before something like Sacred Heart if I would be more satisfied.)
I did really enjoy following Keith's & Chris's journeys, although I did tend to lean more towards favoring Chris. She starts out as the pretty girl next door but her frustration with everyone wanting something from her & how that eventually pushes her into loneliness & fierce determination to live on her own terms was very poignant. Or maybe I'm just happy that both of these protagonists were equally well-developed & I could relate well to the female protagonist. (My husband also read this at the same time & he admitted that he really got Keith's perspective, even though he liked both characters.)
The murders in the woods--kind of a meh plot. It feels like sort of a given that if you leave a group of humans unsupervised & outside of society for awhile, we're going to start doing terrible things to each other. But, because of my recollection of the original WaPo review influencing my expectations, I did end up sort of seeing the reluctant henchman Dave as a weird double for Elliot Smith. (His mouth deformities; Elliot's facial scars--memory is a highly associative thing.) Overall, an interesting beautiful read but ultimately diluted by my long wait to get around to it. Another warning for me that if I see something, I should probably read it sooner rather than later....more
A contemplative, atmospheric juvenile graphic novel in the spirit of Peter Spier's Rain or The Mysteries of Harris Burdick about the experience of leaA contemplative, atmospheric juvenile graphic novel in the spirit of Peter Spier's Rain or The Mysteries of Harris Burdick about the experience of leaving one's country to find refuge in another. Tan's book follows an unnamed father as he leaves his family behind in their native country in order to find work & a new place to live in another, more peaceful land. Equal parts realistic & fantastical, the art takes inspiration from Ellis Island documents, Ashcan School art, Surrealism & silent films to illustrate the past & present hardships of the immigrant characters, but ultimately delivers a quietly hopeful message about hope & the ties of community.
Recommended to me by a friend, I had no idea what to expect when I picked it up. But each page is an invitation to really focus on the detailed pictures & allow yourself to be absorbed in each character's story. Tan's art darts between being photorealistic when rendering people's faces or hands & being intricately whimsical when depicting the odd creatures that become familiars to the newcomers or the alien languages or geometries that make up the city. Beautiful, expressive & ultimately kind, Arrival is a wonderful book to share with children curious about history & an indulgence for adults who enjoy lingering over the art in graphic novels....more
The novel follows Nathan Zuckerman as he tries to unravel his fascination with Coleman Silk, a former classics professor at Athena College who had resThe novel follows Nathan Zuckerman as he tries to unravel his fascination with Coleman Silk, a former classics professor at Athena College who had resigned after a scandal that painted him a racist. Silk has found comfort with Faunia, a younger woman whose own trials have lead her to seek out tougher, more direct philosophy of life. After the pair meet a tragic end, Zuckerman starts examining the people & the town around them in order to make sense of the events leading to their death.
I struggled with this book & only finished it because my husband loves Philip Roth & I wanted to figure out why. I think Roth is a conflicted (& possibly insecure) writer whose style is meant primarily to provoke readers. There were parts of the story that were structured similarly to older Victorian novels but Roth soon interrupted himself with terse "racy" monologues about sex & stretches of unimaginative repetitive profanity. He also writes about pop culture & contemporary events in a shrill, combative tone as if they prove the worst aspects of his point without a doubt.
With that said, if you can force your way past all of these defense mechanisms (& it will not be easy), there are moments of vulnerable, real emotion & Roth is able to deliver his story in a less antagonistic way. He may struggle to capture his characters voices in first person, but he illustrates intimate moments between two people in third person well. There are also many interesting parallels between Zuckerman's story & the themes of Greek classics at play & there is some fun in putting the pieces together. I even found myself sympathizing with Mark Silk & Delphine Roux, two characters originally set up as opposition to Coleman but who gain depth as the novel goes on. But for all of these more accessible ways into Roth's story, he will not leave the reader alone & will keep pointing out that he's manipulating the story until he finally calms down again in the last chapter & says his piece.
There are quite a few secondary topics in The Human Stain that still resonate in 2016: the fracturing of education, cultural apathy, how our ambition hurts others, the perils of living too much in our mind or our ideals, the persistence of media & falsehood in an all-access media age. (Quote:"Even if you demonstrate something's a lie, in a place like Athena, once it's out there, it stays." Oh honey, you have no idea what's coming.) So, I guess my suggestion to anyone interested in reading this book is to do some mental calculation. If any of the above appeals to you, just be aware that you'll be exploring them with a difficult, angry author more interested in shouting his point at you than challenging you to consider his train of thought....more
4 years after the events of Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina is nurturing her fledgling Earthseed community, called Acorn. She tries to figure out4 years after the events of Parable of the Sower, Lauren Olamina is nurturing her fledgling Earthseed community, called Acorn. She tries to figure out what the next steps of her philosophy are & celebrates the ups & downs of life with her people--events that include the birth of her daughter with her husband Bankole. But, the community is ultimately destroyed by evangelical Christians encouraged to hurt & enslave anyone with different beliefs than them & the current United States president. Separated from her child, Lauren & the remnants of Acorn endure the horrors of the labor camp & eventually escape & regroup.
The tension left over from Sower shifts from all-inclusive problems like food shortage, climate change, and persistent conflict to the growing pains of an American society that has decided that only certain people get by while all others can either fall in line or suffer the consequences. Despite some of the drop-off of the action, the timeliness of Butler's portrayal is still very canny in 2016 & will satisfy those of us readers who were left hanging at the end of the first book. But there is still a lot of story left to be told & we will have to be satisfied with the conflicting voices of Lauren as she tries to rebuild her community & her daughter who reunites with her mother too late to fully understand her purpose. Butler herself calls this book 'a novel of solutions' (not all properly planned out) & this may guide readers into a more forgiving perspective toward even the most despicable characters....more
Lauren Olamina has grown up in a walled neighborhood in Robledo, CA her entire life. As the daughter of the neighborhood preacher & as an empath hLauren Olamina has grown up in a walled neighborhood in Robledo, CA her entire life. As the daughter of the neighborhood preacher & as an empath herself, Lauren struggles between living compassionately & trying to be prepared for any catastrophe that might break through the walls of her neighborhood. The United States are crumbling & the old laws & social conventions are no longer a proper safeguard. Lauren's journal is her sanctuary as she tries to make the right choices & articulate her blossoming philosophy--an ambitious set of beliefs she calls Earthseed.
3.5 instead of 4 mainly because of the anti-climactic ending. All of Butler's thematic concerns are here: a burgeoning new belief that strives to marry science to the metaphysical, a driven protagonist with an odd-yet-seductive ability, an environment meant to test & refine her character's knowledge & remake her. Sower is not just a familiar retread of Butler's previous tropes, but is also something that still conveys the essence of problems we're currently facing in 2016. The extreme social division, the struggle to survive against the flux of global changes, even the theatrical yet meaningless rhetoric of the political leadersin the book are just a measure or two away from our current society. Which makes the development of Earthseed in the story a refreshing & inspiring change. The idea that moving forward scientifically or in other ways that would advance human capabilities is not a way to "escape" our problems but a way of pushing the human race forward into a maturity above our petty conflicts. I can now see this book's influence on The Galaxy Game.
Lauren is a fascinating character & its very easy to be swept up in her ideas. The last few chapters of the book, however, seems to set up much that doesn't come to immediate fruition. Lauren begins to gather a community around her & they arrive at a stopping place, prepared to create a place for themselves. And then the book just ends. I couldn't totally believe it when I reached the last page--trials, separations, the beginning of Earthseed's germination & then. . . ? What happens? Can't wait for Parable of the Talents!...more