The Arrival, in both its form and its content, represents why computer screens will never easily replace the book. In an extraordinary achievement ofThe Arrival, in both its form and its content, represents why computer screens will never easily replace the book. In an extraordinary achievement of production, The Arrival is an appealing 8 1/2" x 14" size, with covers that have a leather look. The illustrations are created in varying pencil shades, from sepia to gray tones. The pages and illustrations also feature differing textures. All of this excellence is matched, if not surpassed by the stunning ilustrations: part early American lithograph, part Pan's Labyrinth, with a magical realistic style that draws the reader into its exquisite visual vocabulary.
And this visual vocabulary becomes a vital and deeply personal experience for readers accustomed to the experience of reading words on a page. The Arrival was thrilling for me in part because the reading experience was a unique one; the experience of reading and interpreting pictures (there are no words in the book) closely approximated for me the experience of being illiterate, of living in, of experiencing an unknown and unfamiliar world.
The book takes time if you want to understand it, but it is a book to savor, a book that rewards the quiet moments of visual study and close attention. It is a book that rewards us if we can, like its main character and the immigrants he meets along the way, approach a new world, find in it the familiar, and use the familiar as a way of knowing better and more deeply the strangeness of a new world. ...more
When I read the first volume of the Octavian Nothing series, I knew I'd read something extraordinary, but I didn't know what to do with it, and so I oWhen I read the first volume of the Octavian Nothing series, I knew I'd read something extraordinary, but I didn't know what to do with it, and so I only mildly enjoyed it (as you'll notice from my rating). However, in the intervening years, Octavian's story, and M.T. Anderson's masterful use of narrative, language, and historical theory, got under my skin, and it became the contemporary book I used as a touchstone for excellence in fiction writing (not just Juvenile fiction writing) perhaps more than any other.
So when the New York Times Review of Books announced the sequel, Vol. II The Kingdom on the Waves, I was thrilled. Though it's been out for several months, I've finally had the time to devote to the work, the first book I've been excited about in more than a year. And it did not disappoint.
Early in the novel, Octavian sets the stage for the themes of the book when, in the midst of an interrupted theatrical production he notes that "An anxiety at what was real and what was display beset us." He has discovered that the life he lived in the Novanglian College of Lucidity was not real, but now, he must set about the more difficult task of defining himself. When Octavian enlists with Lord Dunmore, governor of Virginia, he expects freedom. However only after seeing his friends sacrificed in battle, after seeing the chaotic order of the rebels and the ordered chaos of the Loyalists, does he learn understand himself as not a traitor to, but an emblem of the Nation itself: always in conflict, always in a state of flux.
In his closing reflections on the nature of history, Anderson explores the complexity and myriad options that faced slaves during the Revolutionary War: "The decision to emancipate or leave them in bondage," he notes of both sides of the conflict, "was not based on abstract principles, but on strategic interests." Octavian's story gives Anderson the opportunity to explore the troubling uses of the word "Liberty" in Colonial America. Octavian himself is fond of noting that those who cry loudest for freedom from tyranny are the sniveling slave masters, and no one, not even General George Washington, escapes his damning critiques.
Octavian's search for dignity and humanity forces Christian readers to ask serious questions about the idea that we were founded as a "Christian" nation, and pushes all readers to think about the ways that we have constructed the story of our Nation in what we hope will be our own image. This is only a part of reality, Anderson suggests. On the other hand, Octavian knows "How awful it is to contemplate the accidents that determine one's fate." He poignantly notes that "History is not a pageant arrayed for our delectation. We are all always gathered there. ... We ourselves are history. The moment, is always now."
M.T. Anderson's most recent foray into juvenile fiction is surprising in its complexity. His narrative, faithful to the conventions of the autobiograpM.T. Anderson's most recent foray into juvenile fiction is surprising in its complexity. His narrative, faithful to the conventions of the autobiographical slave narratives of the 19th century, is filled with the rich, complex language of the period, and provides a fascinating look at the importance of living at the truly human intersection of reason and emotion....more
I recently retread this book as part of a "book club" I'm conducting with my 8 year old niece. She finds the book comical and thinks Ramona is a crackI recently retread this book as part of a "book club" I'm conducting with my 8 year old niece. She finds the book comical and thinks Ramona is a crack up. I also really enjoyed it, in that way that retreading a book as an adult is deeply satisfying.
As a child, I didn't know that Ramona lives in Portland. As a child I didn't pay much attention to the financial and interpersonal challenges faced by Ramona's parents. As an adult, these details create a satisfying picture of working class family life. Ramona is a delightfully capricious child struggling with what it means to be a responsible part if a respectable family, and she embodies a curiosity and creativity most teachers only dream of, and her relationships with school fellows and teachers offer an excellent model of healthy problem solving.
During the course of the book, I asked my niece questions about how (and whether) she related to Ramona, about how she imagined the plot would develop, and about how she would describe the characters. The book is right on target for her age group, as evidenced by her readiness to read the rest of the series together!...more
Bud, Not Buddy is the sweet tale of an oprhaned boy who, in the heart of the great depression, sets out to find his father, following only a few cluesBud, Not Buddy is the sweet tale of an oprhaned boy who, in the heart of the great depression, sets out to find his father, following only a few clues left by his mother. Along the way, he finds more family than he ever imagined, and learns to have compassion on all who suffer loss....more
Not my favorite M.T. Anderson, but then ... what could top the Octavian Nothing books? As it is, The Game of Sunken Places is a fun, quick read. It'sNot my favorite M.T. Anderson, but then ... what could top the Octavian Nothing books? As it is, The Game of Sunken Places is a fun, quick read. It's classic Anderson, with complex characters and tons of imagination; a hint of sci-fi mixed with a splash of historical fiction and a fairly dark view of fate.
This book features two friends--Brian and Gregory--who end up unwittingly participating in a game with a high-stakes outcome for a range of otherworldly creatures. Anderson's characters develop in very small ways, but more than anything, they live fully into their personalities, embodying the best and worst of themselves, and learning to live with one another in the midst of it. Their ability to work with one another, to cooperate even in the midst of personal tensions is vital to the outcome of the game, which features some entertaining twists and a cast of vivid supporting players.
Worth the read over some rainy autumn weekend when you want to take it easy. ...more
I was disappointed by this sequel to Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, a compelling sci-fi take on the formulaic juvenile fiction novel. Pretties, unfortunatI was disappointed by this sequel to Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, a compelling sci-fi take on the formulaic juvenile fiction novel. Pretties, unfortunately, feels like more of the same, taking too long to resolve the old issues and failing to introduce any new and compelling ideas. Instead (and perhaps this a valuable thing to consider) he seems to be treading the same territory, leaving his characters in the same situations with no real added emotional depth. I may continue on to the next book, but only because these books do move so quickly and are such marvelous plot-driven brain candy (and one only takes about 6 hrs. to read)....more