AEL: Kindred, three AP’s, The Great Gatsby, KIX-S, Room, two A/M’s

OK, maybe if I do these every other Saturday, opposite my TWIP’s, it’ll work better? I’ll try it.

Kindred by Octavia Butler — I don’t know exactly what to say about this book. It was a fascinating read and I loved it, but it’s been months and I still haven’t been able to figure out what its point is. I can’t imagine it was intended purely to entertain — not that there’s anything wrong with purely entertaining stories; I just don’t believe this is one — nor do I believe for one instant that it aimed at a sort of torture-porn titillation.

But why did Ms. Butler choose to tell this story? Was it supposed to be an eye-opener about slavery? None of it came as any surprise to me, and I had a pretty standard middle-class Whitey McWhiterson education and upbringing. Kevin learned an important lesson, and the idea of transforming passive sympathies into active activism is a valuable one — but Kevin is not the focus of the story and can’t bear its purpose. I don’t think Dana took any particular revelations about slavery from the experience; in fact I think she was mostly traumatized, and I wonder at that.

Because the story is, to some extent, a Catalog of Abuse, and it’s my disliking of C of A stories that is, I think, making me search for a point beyond mere entertainment. I don’t want Dana to have to go through this, especially because it’s so much worse for her than for her unfortunate ancestors that were prepared from birth for the horrors they were destined to experience. I want to reach in and rescue her; I want to shield her somehow from all of this. And as her situation gets worse and worse, and one misery after another is heaped on her head, I become more and more frustrating watching ineffectually.

And maybe that’s the point? Maybe the reader is supposed to be worked up into a frenzy wanting to help Dana, to prevent the atrocities she’s going through, and then apply that desire to reality? Like Kevin, really, once again, but it bugs me to think of the point of the book continually coming back to his experience.

A message I took from this story was, “We’re not there yet, but we can learn and improve.” And perhaps the point is to show just how much improvement has happened since the early 1800’s, and to urge the reader to continue working for further improvement. I don’t know. It’s an amazing book in any case, and I may have clearer impressions next time through. I would probably have clearer impressions now if I’d gotten these thoughts down back when I actually read the thing rather than now literally months later XD

He Shall Thunder in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters — I’m not sure I approve of how the author treated Nefret. I’ve never been able to decide. Was it actually entirely in character for her to run off and marry Geoffrey? To allow herself to be manipulated like that? The drama of about a third of the series hinges on that decision, and I just don’t know that it’s fair to Nefret.

I forget why I put this thought off until this book when it’s far more relevant to the previous book, but there it is. I don’t have any more notes about this installment, so I guess I’ll just move on.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald — I always marvel at how this book, while so very short, is so packed from cover to cover with such wonderful prose and such engaging details. It’s really a masterpiece. I need to read more by this author.

I can’t help feeling about Gatsby himself essentially the same way Nick does: I can’t really approve of him and his choices, but still he’s so much better than the people around him. “Fuck classism” is an idea I always take out of this book, and it’s embodied so well in Gatsby. A marvelous piece of work.

LES=BEAT by KIX-S — I’ve been a fan of this band for many years, yet never able to find out anything about them. They’re just… not very well known outside of Japan, I guess. One of the things I’ve always wondered is whether there’s some gay going on either in their music or between the two ladies. And when I saw the title of this album I was like THIS CONFIRMS ALL MY HEADCANONS. But I still don’t actually know for sure XD Anyway, this album is good times — the familiar KIX-S sound, but in no way repetitive.

The Ionian Mission by Patrick O’Brian — I think this is the funniest book in this series yet. I had to read parts of it to my mom and brother just to demonstrate how clever and delightful this author’s prose is. Also, shit like the Hallelujah chorus (with actions and costumes!!) getting interrupted by sails approaching and such? I laughed so hard.

Really glad to see how Stephen and Diana are doing so far. I just want them to be happy. I just want them all to be happy.

Lord of the Silent by Elizabeth Peters — You know my sister predicted Margaret & Sethos before it happened? I don’t know that they’re the best couple I’ve ever read about — in fact I would appreciate a little more indication that they’re actually in love — but, given the setup of the series and some convenient things that had gone before, they’re an irresistible couple.

I always kinda forget what is the plot of this book. The mystery and adventure isn’t very cohesive. Not the best installment, but certainly not as bad as, say, A River in the Sky.

Room — Brother had me watch this movie, and I thought it was extremely good. I started to say I enjoyed it very much, and I certainly did enjoy thinking about it and observing the artistry of it, but it was actually a pretty unpleasant experience, so I had to amend my wording XD

There was an excellent sense of subtlety here that I don’t often see in movies of any type — long stretches of silence, showing things casually instead of belaboring points, and so on. And Jacob Tremblay is the greatest child actor I’ve ever seen. I am in awe of that kid’s talents.

I was ready to be absolutely irate at this movie because it seemed like… well, “torture porn” is too strong a term… but a lesser version of that same type of belaboring the horrors of a situation without allowing the audience closure or healing. I was sure it was going to end with them escaping, and I was going to be so angry. But when it went on into the recovery process, I was grateful and satisfied.

When I saw the name of the screenwriter/novelist in the credits, I wasn’t even a little surprised to find it was a woman. A woman has a much better chance than a man of understanding how much the recovery process is needed in a story like this. A woman would understand how fucked up someone’s life would be after an experience like the one we saw, whereas many men would consider the story over once they’d escaped (as I was just certain was going to happen because I’m too damn used to stories being told by men).

The Golden One by Elizabeth Peters — Oops, I have once again reached the point in the list where I don’t have one single note about what I thought about things. I keep resolving to do better and then not doing better XD

Anyway. In contrast with the previous book in this series, this one is fantastic. The trip to Gaza is so gripping, and some parts are hilarious in classic Amelia style. And the finding of the cache of the Gods’ Wives is great. The Albions are pieces of shit and it’s so satisfying to see them get comeuppance. Good book all ’round. Also I can finally return to my Favorite moment in this installment tradition with, “Vous êtes en la harem, ma chérie,” said Emerson, smirking. “Les dames non pouvait—pourraint—(curse it!) voir dans le aperture.”

Treason’s Harbour by Patrick O’Brian — I loved this book. The spy intrigue was particularly good in this one. I had a harrowing moment of, “Please don’t let it be the dog,” and then it was the dog and that was so damn sad. You learn to what extent you can trust an author, and after eight books of this series I really thought O’Brian wouldn’t kill the dog. Sad day. I wish I had notes here.

Aight, there are (including the book I’m reading right now) 13 more items on my list to be dealt with, with almost no notes whatsoever. I really don’t feel like doing any more of this today, but I will try again to catch up two weeks from now. Having a schedule often helps, so maybe I’ll truly be able to get back on track with these posts this time.

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