My life is all things house and remodeling on small budget of near zero (but it’s mine and I get to create a comfortable and enchanted and cozy home). I’ve written next to nothing (bad, I know). Yes. Bad. But I’ve been squeezing in some reading.
So, I want to keep you abreast of my reading: Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower. Wow. I mean, I knew it would be wow, it’s Ms. Butler and she was simply an amazing, genius, courageous writer. And I have yet to read something of hers that has not really impressed itself upon my mind. Not yet read anything of hers that wasn’t fluid to read.
Which has me thinking of why I didn’t like Charles de Lint more, despite the themes that so intrigued me. Because Butler has themes, oh my, does she ever. Great themes, human themes. Jilly, the main character in The Onion Girl, has things happen to her. Interesting things, horrible things, wonderous things. And as I wrote that last sentence I realized that, yes, the passive tense is appropriate because she really didn’t seem to have too much invested. I mean she did, she was an artist and art was her life and there was a very good chance she would be unable to recover enough to paint again. That’s tragic. But I never felt her life was tragic. I never felt her teetering on the edge of the abyss. I felt intrigued by the Dream Lands, but I didn’t feel her intrigue. My interest was my own.
And Jilly’s lack of negative emotion, that’s just not human. One reviewer wrote that it made her seem so goody-goody. I think it made her seem so blah, and just not real, not really there.
But Lauren, main character of Parable… life is tough, and she knows it will only get worse – a curse in and of itself that, knowledge. And she suffers (suffer, is gifted with, depends on how you look at it, but in a society that’s in the most major of declines and humanity is losing its grip on the humane, it feels like it may be more curse than gift) she suffers from hyper-empathy. And her younger brother (half-brother, as is made to be important) may be a sociopath and he’s stolen his mother’s Smith&Wesson and has left their barely clinging to safety and life gated community. Shit’s going to get worse really quickly and Lauren knows it.
And I feel all of it with her. I know her fear and her outrage at society’s actions, politicians and business people hoarding power and wealth when so, so many are hurting and without the basic dignity of life (and I mean know as in understand and comprehend and can integrate this information on a personal level). And I know that she hates her brother as much as she loves him, hates how his actions have torn the family apart. She sees his complete denial and lack of comprehension for the horrific and disturbing actions he’s taken. Her little brother. The selfish, despicable, actions of those in power that perpetuate the miserable conditions she and her brother experience every day. I feel this conflict.
Lauren is intelligent and strong. We need more characters like her. We need more people like this. I’m impressed by how real she is to me.
Her family and the small community they live in can barely afford the water they need to survive. They can’t really afford to pay the police for their services. Lauren wants to get ready for when it all falls apart: their walls that barely keep thieves and rapists and worse out, the American political system which is stumbling after an already collapsed economy, their own humanity which is being quashed on most sides from the hungry, drugged-out, under-educated, under-employed, hopeless, homeless masses. But no one wants to talk about preparing for the future, they want to hide in their denial. Lauren thinks they are hypocrites, fearful. Then, when thinking about her father and his mortality, she admits that she’s no different – she doesn’t truly understand what that would be like, to lose her father, that she doesn’t feel his mortality as a real inevitability. And I feel this ambivalence, this ambiguity with her.
These are some of the differences I’m seeing between de Lint’s novel and Butler’s. And I’m only a third of the way through Parable of the Sower. Of course, I was excited for de Lint’s story from the beginning, but by the time I was a third of the way through his I’d already been wrenched out of his story-telling and thought do I really need to read this again? I have only been swept away by Butler’s story-telling. And while I have seen myself in Lauren, I still am surprised by and feel engaged in her thoughts and her actions. I don’t know where I want this story to go. With de Lint’s story, I did have a much better idea of how I expected the story to develop, and it didn’t go there. Interesting difference, to be so engaged and yet not have an agenda – I’m along for the ride in Butler’s story. I’ll let her take me where she wants, I will follow where she leads.