Saturday, December 22, 2012

One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

Another book that was recommended to me, and I don't remember by who. Fascinating, though. A quick, great read. A little younger than YA, about three sisters who live with their dad and grandma in Brooklyn in the late 1960's--their mom took off shortly after the youngest was born. The summer of 1968, the dad ships them out to Oakland to spend a month with her.

Their mom is completely uninterested in them--tells them to go to the Black Panthers summer camp down the street, tells them they can get a free breakfast there too. So they go--what else are they going to do? Delphine, the oldest, eleven going on twelve, is the leader. Vonetta is the middle sister, and Fern is the baby. Vonetta is maybe nine, Fern seven.

It's a really interesting portrait of that time and place, the sisters... I liked this book a lot. I've read others by her, but this made me think I should read more.

The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin

This book was so good. So good that I said to Laurel, who recommended it to me, "Why hasn't everybody read this? Why was it published in 1971, and no one ever mentioned it to me until now? Why wasn't I told to read it in school, ever?"

I know that part of that is because it's science fiction. I haven't even been reading that much sci fi, and I've only been reading a few writers' work, but it's incredible, what I have been reading! Even the really dated stuff--and yes, a novel written in 1971, and set in 1998 through 2078, is going to be dated--is amazing. Not all sci fi is amazing, I know, but the stuff I've been reading!

Like this novel. Which I want to say transcends the fact that it's sci fi. Which might be seen as a condescending remark toward sci fi, but I mean it more to say that it's about so much more than a view of the future, so much more than spaceships and aliens. It's about relationships. I'd say relationships between people, but they aren't people. They're a lot like people, but they're aliens. Earth barely exists--as a current native says of it: “'My world, my Earth is a ruin. A planet spoiled by the human species. We multiplied and fought and gobbled until there was nothing left, and then we died. We controlled neither appetite nor violence; we did not adapt. We destroyed ourselves. But we destroyed the world first.'” The speaker is someone who left Earth for another planet, Urras, where he serves as an ambassador from Earth (now known as Terra). He was born on Urras, and Terra is virtually uninhabitable at this point, so the ambassadors on Urras (where the interplanetary council is), and those few Terrans on Hainish, one of the other two known habitable planets (Anarres and Hainish) are perhaps the majority of Terrans remaining. There are a few struggling along on Terra, but there's little sustanance left there.

Anyhow, highly recommended. I loved this book. It goes in so many important directions.

Classic Novels

I'm slowly making my way through Anna Karenina, which is incredible. I was thinking about when was the last time I read a big classic novel? I looked through the last six months of my blog, and no classics--The Martian Chronicles might be the closest thing. And that's not what I mean, though it's wonderful. I mean like Anna Karenina, big, and of another era, and the sort of book I should have read already but so often haven't. So maybe a goal will be to read a classic every six months? I've read so many damn books in the past six months--it's no hardship to fit a classic in there. Plus Anna Karenina is so good! More on it when I'm done...

Recommendations of other classics, please? Say 1940s and earlier? I especially don't seem to be well-versed in, say, the Russians. Or probably other foreign authors I'd have to read in translation. So yeah, tell me books you've really loved (no sense just posting a list of books you've heard of--I've probably heard of them too. I want recommendations, please). Thanks!