Sunday, July 02, 2006

how many hours of reading do you think we have in lifetime?

Sometimes reading can really piss me off because the more you read the longer your reading list becomes. I just finished Kindred by Octavia Butler and it was incredible. I had previously read her Wild Seed, which i loved (the Reader's Guide at the end of Kindred says that Wild Seed and Kindred both depart from Butler's other works in that they are set in the historical past while her other works are set in the future); a friend has recommended Fledgling to me; and after reading a few critical reviews of her work i now feel compelled to read everything else she's written as well as reread Beloved by Toni Morrison (which i didn't like the first time i read it--but feel i may have missed something) and i want to read Ice by Anna Kavan.

Anyway i've been trying to figure out what to say about Kindred other than the fact that it's brilliant--which it is. A novel about the inhumanity of slavery set in modern times (or at least 1976--hey i was alive then--i remember the bicentennial...back in the day..)

This book is referred to as grim fantasy rather than science fiction and i think i can get with that description. There is definitely no attempt made to explain the mechanism (or even any kind of inference made that it is a mechanism) that tosses a black woman back and forth between centuries. And that of course is not really important to the story. What is important is what human beings are capable of doing to each other and the type of relationships that can develop within different social dynamics. I think it even illustrates how different relationships can develop between the same two people if they move within different social dynamics and time periods (as do Dana--the main character, and her white husband Kevin).

Dana is sent into the past to save her own present, perhaps to learn who she is because she is, in a sense an orphan, as is her husband--maybe they both need to go back to learn a sense of their history--or to make their own history. But in doing so they leave many pieces of who they were behind, never to be retrieved.

Beyond being a searing first-person narrative that illustrates how easy it is to grow into complacency, this novel also emphasizes that we are the sum of all the experiences that we have had--not only as individuals but as a collective society with a shared history.

This is a difficult book to put down and a difficult one to get out of your head once you are finished reading it--in a word, incredible.

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