Next in the Educate Myself in Classic SciFi series, I read The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin, at the recommendation of Themba. I was really impressed! It’s about a physicist, Shevek, who comes from the satellite planet Anarres and goes to main planet Urras. Anarres is supposed to be a world of imposed anarchy, or at least a society with no central power. Despite all intentions to keep any group from gaining power over another (or perhaps because of this), society still somehow starts to develop a sort of power imbalance. On Urras, however, Shevek is quite literally imprisoned by the overly capitalist society.
I was particularly interested in the linguistic relativity elements (I guess because I’m a language person), especially the idea that language on Anarres wouldn’t have a possessive form at all because that whole concept isn’t part of the collective mindset. It reminds me of Anthem, of course, and how their language exists exclusively in the collective tense.
However, I can’t help but feel that the book may not mean quite as much to later generations (say, people born in the 1990s onward) because (a) they didn’t grow up with the Soviet Union and there is a very clear parallel to the US-Soviet Union tension on Urras, and (b) the ansible probably doesn’t sound all that amazing to people for whom texting and videochatting are the norm. Just a thought.
Anyway, very highly recommended. If you liked Anthem and/or Stranger in a Strange Land, you’ll like The Dispossessed. Especially you libertarians.
This was a quick, fun read. It’s a children’s scifi novel by Heinlein about a boy whose citizenship comes into question because his parents are from different planets and he was born in outer space. When the planets declare war against each other, he is suddenly unwanted either way and furthermore is hunted by authorities everywhere.
While it was fun and easy to read, I was a little annoyed by how political it got so fast. And obviously Heinlein is well-known for his political doctrines but this seemed a little excessive, especially for a young adult novel.
I’m a couple of days late but it’s Banned Books Week!
I’ve always been a big supporter of Banned Books Week, partly because education and education reform have always been my biggest sticking points and frequently cause me to want SO badly to be in politics (when normally I would hate it). Literature is also the one place where, much to Kevin’s delight, I am staunchly libertarian-minded. I firmly believe that people, including (or perhaps especially) children should be able to read what they want. I grew up reading Judy Blume and Harry Potter so I guess it came as a shock to me when I got older and found out that all over the place, people were trying to prevent others from enjoying literature. I think it’s awful that people think that they can suppress art because it supposedly supports or even just depicts what they deem to be immoral.
I know the biggest argument is that we’re trying to PROTECT THE CHILDREN, but I think the best protection is education. You can tell a child that a book does contain sexually explicit material, or that there are certain values that may or may not line up with the values you want them to have. But I think that is exclusively the responsibility of the parents. I feel like banning a book is just the easy way out – it saves you from having to talk to your child about difficult issues, sure – but it’s irresponsible! I’m very attuned to the idea of poverty making it difficult for parents to keep up with everything their children read, but there’s a difference between wanting to provide for your family and lazy parenting. I think of all things parents should play an active role in a child’s relationship with literature.
And to answer the traditional BBW question, if I could save only one book from a mass burning, I’d save the Bible. Not so much because of the religious aspect (although I do think it’s important to preserve religious literature) but because you can derive so many separate stories from it.
Finally finished reading The Food of the Gods and How It Came To Earth (free at Feedbooks). It’s one of H.G. Wells’ lesser known works about two scientists who develop a so-called “food of the gods” that makes living creatures gigantic! It starts out being quite cute with giant baby chicks, but it quickly contaminates other flora and fauna, including rats, vines, and eventually people.
Then the book quickly turned into obvious political commentary about the state trying to repress minorities and all that. I have to be honest, I’m not terribly interested in political theory and thought Wells kind of overdid it in Food of the Gods. Still an interesting premise though.
So Chavez gave President Obama a book about Latin American history, Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent by Eduardo Galeano. So you can guess who the author blames for much of the problems of Latin America today, and also what Chavez is trying to say to Obama.
So naturally, I want to read it!
It’s quite inexpensive actually, only $12.24 paperback. But what’s notable is that it wasn’t a very well-known book. Perhaps among people who specifically study the history of Latin American politics and economy it might be important, and from what I’ve heard it’s very well-written and engaging. But since Obama received the book, its sales on Amazon have SOARED! Jake Tapper was recording the book’s success based on Amazon ratings and it started out at #54,295 before the story went to press, and now it’s at #7, as of the time I’m writing this entry. That’s incredible. I feel like that’s not even necessarily a comment on politics; it just shows how absolutely viral messages can be on the Internet. Wow.
But that wasn’t the main point of my blog. I wanted to complain, as bloggers should1, that it isn’t yet available for the Kindle! Help meeeee and click on the “I’d like to read this book on Kindle” link on the product page!
1 I’m kidding. Sort of.