Sunday, February 15, 2009

Apocalypses, Future and Colonial

At the end of last year, I made a list of all the books I planned to read during 2009; go here to read the original post.

I've been interested in how the books on the list are intersecting and juxtaposing, as I read them. Sometimes the connections are obvious. I noticed an apocalyptic theme as I organized the list.

But sometimes I'm seeing connections I didn't anticipate. For example, I've been dipping in and out of Wastelands, a book of apocalyptic short stories. And then, last week I consumed Toni Morrison's A Mercy. I cannot recommend her book enough. I love that it's relatively short. I love that it shows me a view of colonial life (about 1690) that is fresh to me; we often forget how disorganized our American colonies really were, and this book sheds light on that fact.

This book also makes me once again appreciate being born female in a later time. It also makes me feel fretful, because I know so many females don't share my luck, even though it's the 21st century.

There's an apocalyptic tone to her book that I didn't expect. The new world in the book is shown as full of opportunities, but there's a dark edge to her depiction. These female characters are perched on a precarious brink, and it doesn't take much to make them tumble.

And of course, with Toni Morrison, there's lyrical language that I love. I know that not everyone shares my preference. I knew my participation in a writer's group was doomed once, when the dominant member was reading The Bluest Eye, back when Oprah picked it, and couldn't understand all that "crap" that doesn't really advance the narrative. I quietly said, "That's the artistry in the book."

I also love Morrison's ethics lessons throughout. In many ways, the last sentences of the ending chapter sum it all up nicely: ". . . to be given dominion over another is a hard thing; to wrest dominion over another is a wrong thing; to give dominion of yourself to another is a wicked thing" (167).

For those of you who want more information on this book (either before or after reading it), Diane Rehm had a wonderful interview with Toni Morrison in December--go here to hear it. On the Historiann blog, Ann M. Little writes about the book from a historian's point of view--go here to read that post.

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