I listened to the author read this on CD. When he began, I thought, "Oh no, it's one of those authors who should stick to writing and not narrating."I listened to the author read this on CD. When he began, I thought, "Oh no, it's one of those authors who should stick to writing and not narrating." His voice was kind of monotone and soporific. But as the book went on, I found his voice was a perfect foil for the explosive nature of the story, the violence of home and street, the stark differences between his life and the lives of white people, even poor white people. This book is a letter to his 15-year-old son, explaining what it means to be a black man in America, how it's different than being a black man in France for example, and certainly different than being a white man. It's anlove letter, an exhortation, a history, a memoir, and an analysis all in one. I can't recommend it enough to begin to understand what black men face in this country. ...more
My first foray into this well-respected writer's work, but it certainly won't be my last!
I will start by saying that there's a long-standing snobberyMy first foray into this well-respected writer's work, but it certainly won't be my last!
I will start by saying that there's a long-standing snobbery in circles that only respect lit-ra-chah that speculative (SF&F) fiction and every other "genre" category is somehow less than regular fiction; that it's all banal, badly written, a waste of time, the purview of the poorly-read, only fit for beach reading. Nonsense. I suspect most people who take this uppity stance haven't read widely in those categories, while they conveniently forget how much crap takes up space on regular fiction shelves. I defy anyone to read Butler's stories and tell me that they aren't some of the best writing out there. In general, I think speculative fiction has got to be the hardest fiction to write. Not only do you have to have a coherent plot, good character development, and believable dialog, you have to create a whole new world; one that doesn't fall apart when you push on it. Or at least to portray this world with some major differences. The best speculative fiction postulates what will happen in the future, how the present might be altered if history were different, how we might cope with alien cultures, and more importantly, explores our humanity in new and eye-opening ways by placing it in a completely different context.
Butler's writing is tight, intense, and in a few pages, takes you to a new reality. The first story, "Bloodchild," winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, is a horrifying coming-of-age tale of parasitism and love. How often do you see all of those adjectives in one sentence? I also loved "The Evening, the Morning, and the Night," which is about coping with degenerative disease and personal responsibility. For me, the weakest stories were "Near of Kin" and "Crossover." But even these were well-written; just not satisfying to me.
Not all of the stories are speculative fiction; there is also some straight fiction and essay. What I liked and hadn't expected was Butler's "Afterword" on each story. She says, "I like the idea of afterwords rather than individual introductions since afterwords allow me to talk freely about the stories without ruining them for readers . . . Before now, other people have done all the print interpretations of my work: 'Butler seems to be saying . . .' Obviously, Butler believes . . .' 'Butler makes it clear that she feels . . .' Actually, I feel that what people bring to my work is at least as important to them as what I put into it. But I'm still glad to be able to talk a little about what I do put into my work, and what it means to me." And I'm glad she did. After reading Bloodchild and thinking it was a parable of slavery, I was amused and chagrined to read, "It amazes me the some people have seen "Bloodchild" as a story of slavery. It isn't."
One final note: I was not surprised to read in Butler's online bio that Harlan Ellison thought highly of her work, encouraged her, and bought one of her stories. Like his, her writing is lean, often startling, and always uncompromising. From what I've read so far, she never panders, never dances around her point. She hits you right there. ...more
I really loved Miss Read's series about the fictional village of Caxley (which neighbors Fairacre), so I thought I'd check out these. I am reading theI really loved Miss Read's series about the fictional village of Caxley (which neighbors Fairacre), so I thought I'd check out these. I am reading the first three Fairacre books in one big, hulking volume. I enjoyed this first installment. Miss Read is a schoolteacher in a small village in the 1950s, although in many ways it feels more like the 1930s, as the war and its subsequent continued rationing and unemployment kept England from modernizing much, especially in small, working-class villages like the fictional Fairacre. As I studied to be a teacher and now homeschool my own child, it's interesting to read about the attitudes and methods of teaching and parenting in that time, place, and circumstance. Much of it is more modern than I would have thought, and certainly gives kids more credit and more patience that schools do these days. For example, on a lovely summer afternoon, Miss Read takes her children outside. I enjoyed this passage and her willingness to admit that lazing on a sunny day can be as important as any school work:
"The lesson on the time-table was 'Silent Reading' and in various attitudes, some graceful and some not, the children sat or lay in the grass with their books propped before them...With so little encouragement to read at home, in overcrowded cottages and with young brothers and sisters clamouring round them until bedtime and after, these schoolchildren at Fairacre desperately need peace and an opportunity to read. But on this particular afternoon I wondered how much reading was being done and how much daydreaming. My marking pencil slowed to a standstill and the geography test papers lay neglected in my lap. What an afternoon, I mused! When these boys and girls are old and look back to their childhood, it is the brightest hours that they will remember. This is one of those golden days to lay up as treasure for the future, I told myself, excusing our general idleness."
Also, I liked this passage, where she marvels at the lax and sweet parenting she sees and its surprising (to her) results:
"I am always amazed at the servitude of parents in these parts to their children, particularly to the little rascals between two and five years old. These engaging young scoundrels can twist their doting parents round their fingers by coaxing, whining or throwing a first-class tantrum. The parents thoroughly spoil them, and the older children are also encouraged to pander to their lightest whim. Sweets, ice-cream, apples, bananas, cakes and anything else edible that attracts the child's fancy flow in an uninterrupted stream down the child's throat, as well as normal meals and the quota of orange juice and cod liver oil which is collected from the monthly clinic at the village hall, and, I must say in all honesty, that a more healthy set of children it would be hard to find. They seem to stay up until the parents go to bed, and I see them playing in their gardens, or more frequently in the lane outside their cottages, until dusk falls. Then, sometimes as late as ten o'clock on a summer's evening, they finally obey the calls to 'Come on in!' which have been issuing from the cottage unheeded for an hour or more, and dragging reluctant feet they resign themselves, still protesting, to bed. And yet, as I have said, under these methods which are a direct violations of the rules of a well-regulated nursery, these children thrive. Furthermore, when they enter school at the age of five, one might reasonably expect some trouble in maintaining discipline; but this is not so."
Which is not to say that they book doesn't also touch on some of the darker parenting tactics, particularly those of alcoholic parents. In general though, she focuses on and promotes the gentle, kind, and respectful treatment of children and the happy results of that. I think I enjoyed the Caxley books a little more, as they were more of a historical epic, following the family fortunes of multiple generations, but I am still happy to continue reading these sweet Fairacre stories. On to the next volume! ...more
It took me a LONG time to read this book, but not because it wasn't good. In fact, I really liked it. But it was my "car book," meaning I kept it in tIt took me a LONG time to read this book, but not because it wasn't good. In fact, I really liked it. But it was my "car book," meaning I kept it in the car for those long waits in offices, lunch by myself, etc. It was episodic enough that I didn't have to keep track of a plot, so I could go weeks without picking it up and still be fine. I read Nella Last's War: The Second World War Diaries of Housewife, 49 a while back, which is also taken from the Mass Observation records, but it was nice to have a book that included multiple diarists living in different parts of Britain and having differing points of view about the war. I found Tomlin irritating, but an interesting contrast to the rest of the diarists. There is a glossary at the back, so if you lose track of which diarist is which, you can look up the name and find the first mention, where the person's situation is described. A great reference for understanding how the war affected those left at home. ...more
When I was 10, I found another of Dolson's books of humorous essays, Sorry To Be So Cheerful, on a shelf at my grandfather's house and enjoyed readingWhen I was 10, I found another of Dolson's books of humorous essays, Sorry To Be So Cheerful, on a shelf at my grandfather's house and enjoyed reading it, even though I had no connection to a young author living in 1950s New York City. I've kept that book all these years, but it never occurred to me to look up the author. I guess I always assumed it must of been a one-off by a long-forgotten writer. But it turns out she wrote loads of essays for many magazines and they've been collected into several different books. This one covers her life from her earliest memories (like when her brother was born while she had mumps and she assumed for years that mumps was part of the baby-producing process) to her first few months as a young adult living in New York City, where she wrote a lyrics for some show music, not realizing what "burlesque" was and where she finally had her first essay published, in The New Yorker no less!
Her parents sound like they were wonderful, artsy and liberal. I especially enjoy her spirited and funny mother. Here's one bit about her: "Just after my father and mother had coddled along grass seed to get a velvety front lawn, we took to playing Blind Man's Bluff on that very spot. Some woman who came to call told Mother she mustn't let us trample over the new lawn. and my Mother said serenely, 'But I'm more interested in raising children than grass.'" Another funny anecdote about her is when she's distressed the Dolson is reading such trashy books. Her mother prefers classics like Dickens and Little Women. "But the literature I lapped up fastest was Tom Swift in the Land of the Pygmies, The Rover Boys Do or Dare, and dozens of this ilk. What's more, I was even more apt to sit indoors reading in the morning, during vacations when I was supposed to be dusting. My mother said that anyone who read in the morning would come to no good. As proof of this, she told me a highly censored tale about a very distant cousin of ours, a creature who indulged in the loose habit of reading The Saturday Evening Post before breakfast, before she was even dressed. Naturally she had turned into a black sheep and died in some outlandish place like Paris, France. I was shaken by this, but still not quite persuaded to give up my raffish ways." ...more
Not her best, but still better than most short stories out there. If you love Munro, you'll enjoy the last four stories, which she says are auto-biogrNot her best, but still better than most short stories out there. If you love Munro, you'll enjoy the last four stories, which she says are auto-biographical. ...more
I loved Wain's art for many years before I knew much about him. Poor guy. He declined into mental illness. I wish this book had been longer to allow fI loved Wain's art for many years before I knew much about him. Poor guy. He declined into mental illness. I wish this book had been longer to allow for a LOT more pictures, but I like it nonetheless. ...more
Nice range of women's diaries, from 1599 to World War II. From Lady Margaret Hoby, a 16th-century landed gentlewoman, to Virginia Woolf, to Nella LastNice range of women's diaries, from 1599 to World War II. From Lady Margaret Hoby, a 16th-century landed gentlewoman, to Virginia Woolf, to Nella Last, housewife diarist during WWII. ...more
This was interesting, but about 1/3 of the way in, I started to lose interest. I may return to it when I'm feeling the need to understand Victorian giThis was interesting, but about 1/3 of the way in, I started to lose interest. I may return to it when I'm feeling the need to understand Victorian girlhood again. Right now, it's too depressing. ...more
Very funny. I had to be careful where I read it because I kept laughing, so it took me forever to read it. Consequently, it came due at the library beVery funny. I had to be careful where I read it because I kept laughing, so it took me forever to read it. Consequently, it came due at the library before I could finish. I need to check it out again to finish it. ...more
I liked her first memoir, but this one is a kiss-and-tell, more more accurately, a screw-over-and-tell story of her disintegrating marriage and all thI liked her first memoir, but this one is a kiss-and-tell, more more accurately, a screw-over-and-tell story of her disintegrating marriage and all the things wrong with her spouse. We all make mistakes, we all do things we're not proud of, but this particular airing of her and her ex's dirty laundry was not enjoyable for me. Left a bad taste in my mouth. ...more
I've just discovered Tom Wakefield. I don't know why I've never come across him before and I can't remember now how I learned about him. I started outI've just discovered Tom Wakefield. I don't know why I've never come across him before and I can't remember now how I learned about him. I started out reading "Lot's Wife." I'm not done with it yet, but this one came in at the library before I'd finished that one and I thought I'd take a glance at it, but then I was instantly hooked and put "Lot's Wife" on the back burner for the moment.
A series of vignettes about his early childhood in a mining village during and after WWII, these stories bring to life his family and the many people who are part of his life. the word that comes to mind most when thinking about Wakefield's style is tender. He's not Pollyanna-ish in any way, but he treats each person with such dignity and acceptance, even those with deep flaws, that it's hard not to follow suit. He believes in the integrity and goodness of people, despite how they might seem on the surface. I love the story of the two lesbians in his village who play on the local darts team with the men. It's understood that it's not safe for them to play at "away" games, but they are loved and respected at home. If some other team comes and loses, and then makes nasty comments to the women, the locals, especially the women, come to their defense. Other stories I enjoyed were the one about him befriending an Italian POW, the one about the love his quiet and hard-working father has for his pigeons, and the one about his mother's response to VE day. There is darkness under the surface in some of these stories, darkness as viewed by a child who senses it but doesn't fully understand the complexities of the adult world. There are also wonder, and joy, and passion.
I was sad when the book was over. I've begun "War Paint," and I can see that it's helpful to have read "Forties' Child" before Wakefield's other books because it's fun to see how he uses real people and events from his past in his fiction. Highly recommend....more
I know of both children's authors, but somehow I didn't find this story of their love and careers as interesting as I thought I would. I read the firsI know of both children's authors, but somehow I didn't find this story of their love and careers as interesting as I thought I would. I read the first few chapters and skimmed the rest, learning enough to know that I probably would have found Krauss immensely irritating and would have liked Johnson. Not sure why there were together, but it was apparently as success for both of them. ...more