Sunday, January 28, 2007

Edible Woman, by Margaret Atwood

Many theories about the mental state of a married woman are tossed up for inspection by the male characters in the book, none of them flattering. Most of the decisions the characters make depend on the opinions of others (whether to marry, to have a child out of wedlock, a salon visit) and then they wonder why those decisions don't play out well. And, of course, this reader had to wonder why Marian is so surprised that her body is rejecting nourishment when she has to get drunk in order to see her life for what it is.

I hope this book is dated (aside from the blue flashbulbs) in terms of societal attitudes. I know that I went through a sort of spiritual life/death struggle while I was married previously. I think that today's women old enough to face this choice have taken back enough strength and identity to get through it in a sane fashion.

[originally posted on BookCrossing 3/11/03]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Lost Souls, by Poppy Z. Brite

Poppy Z Brite's first full novel tells the story of evolved vampires and how they've adapted. Unlike Rice's vampires, they're fully functioning; these breed.

Not a book for the squeamish--reading about the feeding sessions, the rough sex, and the incest disturbed me at times. But I think that discomfort comes from knowing that this subculture (if not the creatures themselves--wink wink) does exist, and it worries me that this sort of pain is manifesting in our world. I'm not so afraid for myself, but for those who "don't belong," or who can't fake it. This subculture is a case in which "if you build it, they will come" is a poor application of an otherwise good idea. I can't quite make this "circle of life" equation match up as it applies to humans (and human-types). Does having predators who cull the weak make our species stronger in Brite's universe? Is that what the vampire genre is all about? Is it also an exercise in fantasy to counteract the imbalances our society had created and nurtured?

Our collective consciousness knows that to experience true life, one has to experience physical and emotional pain. Modern society has created ways to get rid of both kinds of pain without making the sufferer process and grow from its lesson. Society has also created acceptable space for those who thrive on the attention that pain and illness can generate. My theory is that many people have forgotten the way of transition towards healing, growth, and personal evolution. Or, perhaps they believe that their life is only about survival and "getting theirs," ergo no room for and no communication with the divine within.

[originally posted on BookCrossing 3/21/03]

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Color of Water: A Black Man's Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride

For a long time, I've been interested in stories of the immigrant experience, religious conversion, and how people have survived abuse. McBride found all of these elements in his mother's story; I can definitely see how this book was a challenge for him.

Most of the chapters open with transcripts of his mother's recounting of her life. I found it interesting to hear the two voices, not exactly in conversation, but in how the story is maneuvered to best demonstrate the effect on the family members.

I've enjoyed the experience of this book, but McBide leaves at least as many unanswered questions as he unearths skeletons.

I do have to say that I wasn't impressed with the ethics of the extended family of McBride's mother. I don't think that much of their attitude towards the "poor kin" should be excused away even allowing for their times and brand of faith.

[originally posted on BookCrossing 5/8/03]

Friday, January 12, 2007

Lucky Man

It is rare to find autobiographies that consistently make readers not only laugh out loud but also marvel at the grace the author has achieved regarding the mishaps and tragedies s/he has suffered through. Technically, Fox's book is a memoir (I suppose that means "to be continued"), and with Michael Pollan's help, he manages to tell enough of his story without violating too much of his privacy. Fox truly gave the public a gift when he published this book.

Fox's advocacy for more research and funding for the disease he's fighting made me think about today's society and its attitude toward illness and debilitation in general. For some reason, people who are fighting disease or managing pain or other physical limitations due to injury or neurological condition, become relegated to a whole other class and are subject to prejudicial attitudes and to unspoken requests to hide any outward manifestations of their ailment. It's as if humans haven't yet evolved to a point where we aren't punished for our weaknesses; we still "remember" what it's like to live in fear of physical attack from predators. What's up with that?

I'm heartened to know that someone who has been so skilled at his craft (acting) has been successful in branching out into logical directions (producing and writing) and is also devoting his energy to finding a cure for Parkinson's.

"Try to remember that working's no crime, just don't let them take and waste your time." James Taylor

[originally posted to BookCrossing, 3/4/04]