Thursday, August 16, 2007

I have enjoyed reading during these last weeks of summer. One must read was the last book int the Harry Potter series - which pleased me. It bothered me a little that there were no visionary women in the series. Women and girls responded bravely and with passion and intelligence when their friends and family were attacked, but men and boys saw the big picture and came up with the world saving strategies. I don't think its true in real life that men are more likely to be visionary than women. But I didn't let my feminist pique ruin this creative take on one of my favorite themes "the boy who would be king". I liked the triumph of good over evil in the end, and the way it happened with the willingness to sacrifice so marked.

Nineteen Minutes, Jodi Picault's recent novel about a school shooting really shook me. Not so much the shooting and its aftermath, which which were horrible but predictably so. What bothered me was the extreme caste system based on "popularity: described in the high school. I hope this (and the level of bullying described) are not realistic. If this degree of stratification is really active in most schools, I want to pull my grand kids out and run. But of course we can only be part of the solution if we stay in the mix. I honestly don't think popularity was a big issue for me in high school or that I had a sense of who or what group was "most popular". There were some impressively talented and brilliant individuals in academia and the arts, some unusually physically striking people, a few people who were obnoxious - mostly because of lout conservative politics. I definitely likes some people better than others, but I don't think social order was so defined. I do remember a set of twins who never really seemed to have friends or really fit in anywhere. I wonder what they would say about caste systems in our high school.

The brilliant - truly great - though disturbing book I read was Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Whew! This is a post apocalyptic tale - a man and a boy struggling to walk to the sea along a car less Interstate Highway in a destroyed world. The conditions are horrible - and all the more horrible for being man made, two things kept me reading - the visceral beauty of the language and the purity of the love between man and boy. That love glowed like moonlight for me - a strong silver filament against the starkness of the destroyed world. I loved the repetitive cadences in which the man and the boy spoke to each other, the ritualized conversation that kept them connected and alive.

If I considered the man and the boy symbols, as in classic allegory, the man would be Tenacity and the boy Possibility. Tenacity hung in long enough to give Possibility a chance. One of the most disturbing images to me was that the beach, when they finally reached it, was "birdless". The man spoke metaphorically to the boy of how they were "good guys" and "carried the fire" . I think the fire he was talking about was love - and that love held me fast. This was the first book in a long time that I couldn't put down, not because I needed to know what happened but because I was just totally riveted by the flow of the words.

1 comment:

Ruth said...

I like what you have to say about 19 minutes--it makes me reconsider my reaction. I DID feel like we had horrible caste systems in school all they way back to the "blondes" in 5th grade. But I don't know hoe much of feeling like that sort of thing goes on is based on my real life experiences and how much is just accepting what the media tells me. I'm glad you are challenging it--it's nice to know you didn't go through anything like that.

I've been enjoying time to read lately too. Right now I'm reading Mercy (which I know you just finished). It's sparked some interesting conversations between Chris and I lately. Thanks.