Never Let Me Go is a beautiful, emotionally-rich and disturbing read. The author has charted the twists of the story down to the last word, but has reNever Let Me Go is a beautiful, emotionally-rich and disturbing read. The author has charted the twists of the story down to the last word, but has retained the smooth flow of the narrative. An effect much like holding in your hand an expertly-finished piece of woodwork, where you can see the joints and seams but you can't feel them and they don't detract from the appreciation of the craft. If you haven't read it yet but plan to, you should try to avoid the spoilers (below) since much of the fun is watching Ishiguro's puzzle unfold.
(view spoiler)[Since the main characters are humans who have been cloned and raised for the purpose of harvesting their organs, the book eventually comes around to the relationship between creator and creation, to the underlying ethical, moral and existential dilemma. But it does so only reluctantly and selectively, choosing to linger instead on the shifting and minutely-observed relationships between the three main characters: Kathy, Tommy and Ruth. (Although the theme is similar, the focus on characters rather than adventure-spectacle is the exact opposite of Ridley Scott's incoherent Prometheus, which I had just watched prior to reading this.)
Which is to say that the science-fictional premise is buried deep, and while it drives the story forward, it is almost of secondary importance to the emotional life of the characters. This framing delivers a deep sense of mystery and building tension, and drives us to identify strongly with the clones and to see the surrounding society as inhuman/e. This structure pays off spectacularly in the book's closing scenes, where the author makes you feel the full weight of tragedy while leaving enough open questions to keep you mulling it for days. It's an impressive feat.
One open question is how the narrowness of the world is maintained. At Hailsham, the boarding school, the clones were kept in a controlled environment and were heavily socialized to accept their place in the world. But beyond Hailsham, there is no mention of coercion or even the possibility of resistance. That seems to suggest the possibility that the clones are kept passive by more than just a lack of information (genetics? drugs?). Although the possibility is never really raised in the narrative, there is something just the tiniest bit otherworldly about Ishiguro's characters--their deliberateness and odd obsessions--that seems to hint in that direction.
Instead Ishiguro implies that social pressure and exclusion is sufficient to enforce passivity among the clones. Naturally this raises questions about our own social order and our own passivity to injustice (both to ourselves and to others). The moral questions raised are ostensibly about futuristic advances in biotechnology and our ongoing debate about bioethics. But unfortunately, we don't need to look to the future to find examples where one class of humans is despised, excluded and exploited for the benefit of another. We already have shameful experience with that. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
According to goodreads it took me over 3 years, but I did it! I read the whole Bible, even the boring bits. I am currently feeling mildly accomplishedAccording to goodreads it took me over 3 years, but I did it! I read the whole Bible, even the boring bits. I am currently feeling mildly accomplished and eager to read something shorter and more mindless.
I'm not really going to review the content of the Bible itself, as there is no shortage of opinion on this topic. But I would like to recommend the version. The focus here is on Biblical views on the environment and the religious importance of caring for the Creation. The version contains several interesting introductory essays from a range of writers, as well as an excellent bible study guide that teases out some of the key themes for deeper study. And of course, relevant passages in the text are printed in green, much like the famous red-letter bibles that highlight the sayings of the historical Jesus. Highly recommended for anyone interested in Creation Care....more
George Saunders has been buzzed about so much recently that it probably seems a little bandwagony to give this short story collection five stars. ButGeorge Saunders has been buzzed about so much recently that it probably seems a little bandwagony to give this short story collection five stars. But too bad. I am not remotely qualified to place the author here or there in the pantheon of Greatest Living Writers or what have you, but neither am I going to do a damn thing to discourage that sort of irresponsible hyperbole. Tenth of December is fantastic and you should read it!
The obvious fellow-travelers are Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace, so if you like either of them you'll probably dig this too. In concept many of these stories shouldn't "work." They're gimmicky. Too schematic, too cutting. More than once I was reminded of the Coen Bros at their most misanthropic. And yet he manages to draw out -- in me at least -- this profound emotional response. I wondered when the last time it was that a book made me feel something quite so strongly. Have all previous books been medicated or wrapped in gauze? (OK, now I remember when: reading "The Third and Final Continent," the final story from Interpreter of Maladies.)
And the emotional response is not always a positive one. Most of these stories are pretty dark. There are several portraits of poverty and family dysfunction that make you hold your breath for pages. After a few of these I felt an urge to give my sleeping family members a kiss and count my blessings. He leads with humor and then sticks in the knife... but then he dresses the wounds at the same time. That despite the cruel satire he inflicts on his characters, there is also a deep identification with their struggles. As if he is actually laughing at himself, at some blunder, or misunderstanding, or foolishness he himself committed years before. Misanthropic and at the same time, sentimental, if that makes any sense.
The longest and best story here is "The Semplica Girl Diaries" which is a standard tale of class anxiety made volatile by the slowly revealed, and utterly bizarre, science fiction conceit lurking in the background. In contrast "Escape from Spiderhead" is exactly the sort of schematic sci-fi story that should feel tired and reductive, except that it packs a surprising wallop at the end. The final, title track of the collection inverts his usual pattern of light-then-dark and arrives at a moment of emotional catharsis that sums up the entire collection....more
**spoiler alert** The story of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy and her encounters with the California medical system. The author tries her absolute h**spoiler alert** The story of a young Hmong girl with epilepsy and her encounters with the California medical system. The author tries her absolute hardest to be completely fair to the parents and the doctors and everyone involved, which just makes the tragedy of the story all the more wrenching. The most thought-provoking book on multi-cultural America I've read in a long time.
Here's the passage that has stuck with me (spoiler! p. 255):
"Lia's parents think that the problem was caused by too much medicine." "Well," said Dr. Hutchison, "that may not be too far from the truth." I stared at him. "Go back to Merced," he said, "and tell all those people at MCMC that the family didn't do this to the kid. We did." Driving back to Merced, I was in a state of shock myself. I had known about Lia's sepsis, but I had always assumed that her seizure disorder had been the root of the problem. The Lees were right after all, I thought. Lia's medicine did make her sick! That night I told Neil and Peggy what Dr. Hutchison had said. As usual, their desire to ferret out the truth outweighed their desire--if indeed they had one--to defend their reputation for infallibility....more