Posts tagged thoughts
Posts tagged thoughts
In the introduction to the book Fantasy, the authors note that “by creating new worlds…fantasy authors free the reader of preconceptions and prejudices. Long standing biases may fall away, and new perspectives can be achieved, helping the reader to judge moral standards in a new and objective way.” Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card seems to be the perfect example of such an instance. Card creates a brilliant new world (albeit a bit of a dystopia) wherein he explores very real moral issues from start to finish.
In a world where big brother is completely and totally involved (which is troubling enough), Ender is manipulated to the very extreme. From before he was conceived he was under complete government control. Indeed, as Graff points out in the beginning, his parents do not really get a say in whether Ender leaves, because he was only allowed to be conceived for the government to use. This small fact alone is enough to have moral conservatives screaming in protest of government officials controlling our choices regarding children and life. To be quite frank, it should really have everyone screaming in protest at the level of government involvement period.
The main, overarching issue, however, is whether or not the end justifies the means. This concept is first raised on literally the first page of the book. We are not told who is speaking, but presumably two government officials are discussing Ender and his promise and they say, “So what do we do? Surround him with enemies all the time?” “If we have to.” “I thought you said you liked this kid.” “If the buggers get him, they’ll make me look like his favorite uncle.” “All right. We’re saving the world, after all. Take him.” Card is effectively questioning whether it is ok to lie to, manipulate, and use someone (a child, no less) for the greater good from the word go.
Of course, it seems, throughout the book, that the government manipulation of Ender is justified, because compared to the whole of mankind, what is one person? Graff even says to Ender in chapter four “Human beings are free except when humanity needs them…We might both do despicable things, Ender, but if humankind survives, then we were good tools.” But then, after Ender walks away, Graff reveals a deep concern for how horribly they are planning on treating him to shape him into a tool of worldwide salvation.
The twist at the end of the book makes the whole issue even more complicated. The war has been won. By all accounts it seems that the end did in fact justify the means: the buggers have been wiped out, the war is over and humanity is saved. Even if Ender was tricked into winning the war, the point is that he won. Humankind can breathe again because the threat is over. And, while he was enormously manipulated, Ender survived, not too much worse for wear. Just when everything seems all right and justified, we discover that the buggers were not actually evil after all. Somehow this prejudice evolved, causing the Earthly government to basically create people to obliterate the buggers, when all along the buggers were a wise and peaceful race who never meant to do harm, and who immediately forgave Ender for all but wiping them out. It was only their inability to communicate with the humans that led to the prejudice and their ultimate decimation.
In the end, though Card never comes out and says it, and though the bulk of the book is by far all about the battles and the battle school and the sculpting of Ender into the perfect warrior; though nearly the entirety of the plot seems to be resolved with the winning of the war by whatever means necessary, I would say that Card does not believe that the end justifies the means. I see in this book a message of peace and understanding. If, instead of having prejudices and fighting each other to the death, we had just taken the time to understand the unknown and unfamiliar race, perhaps they would not have needed a speaker for the dead. Though it takes place in a far off time and place, Ender’s story is one that all of us here on earth should take to heart and learn from. The lesson is patience and tolerance and understanding, lest we accidentally obliterate someone (or God forbid an entire race) that could have vastly improved our lives.
If there was one word to describe Terry Pratchett’s writing, it would have to be “unexpected.” For a book that is titled Mort and is about the apprentice to death, the story is surprisingly upbeat and hilarious. While the plot is rather heavy business: love and death and fate and mortality and wizardry and time and reality all coming head to head, it is also completely and utterly ridiculous. Death deciding he would rather try out being human is what sets the wheels in motion. There is also frequently such a casual irreverence in his tone and in the characters that it catches you off guard aand you have to laugh. More than the ridiculous plot, however, the book is uproariously funny because, I believe (or would hazard a guess anyway, never having met the man) that Terry Pratchett himself is funny. He is witty and clever and most of all, unexpected. He has an uncanny knack for telling a story in such a conversationalist style to make it familiar, but then just when you think you know where he’s going with a a thought, he turns everything upside down on you, and again, all you can do is laugh. Perhaps it is the way in which he makes such ludacris and absurd references and happenings seem perfectly normal, like when Cutwell nonchalantly sits on an old pizza, the description of Albert’s porridge “which led a private life of its own in the depths of its saucepan and ate spoons,” or the descriptive phrase “with all the apparent acceleration of continental drift” that make the book so comical. Or perhaps it is the wry sarcasm that all the characters seem to use on eachother, with comments like “You wouldn’t believe how many horses we don’t get up here.” and “What time is sunset around here?” “We normally manage to fit it in somewhere between day and night.” Pratchett is a pro at subverting expectations (even expectations that you wouldn’t think could be subverted), and it is there that his comical genius lies. Mort is a hilarious book because Pratchett himself is a casually but ridiculously hilarious person. As if his writing style and the language of his characters is not proof enough of that, the description of the author in the very back of the book stands as enough evidence to solidify the case. It reads, “Terry Pratchett lives in England, an island off the coast of France…” and goes on to explain how by writing Discworld novels on an island off the coast of France, Pratchett is full-filling a very circular “Very Strong Anthropic Principle,” and thereby proving “the whole business true. Any questions?” My only question is, which hugely entertianing Terry Pratchett novel should I read next?
“All children, except one, grow up” (page 7). While the story of Peter Pan is fairly well known, thanks to Walt Disney, there are plenty of details and subtleties left out of the cartoon. For this reason, and because it is my favorite book after Harry Potter, I believe that everyone should read the actual book Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. And with the fantastical trip two stars to the right and straight on till morning to the magical Neverland, this story certainly fits into the category of ‘fantasy literature.’
My favorite passage from the book is also my favorite argument for imagination and creativity: “for the Neverland is always more or less and island, with astonishing splashes of color here and there, and coral reefs and rakish looking craft in the offing…” (11). Barrie’s description goes on for paragraphs, as he describes Michael, John, and Wendy’s individual Neverlands, and compares and contrasts them. At the end of the description he says “On these magic shores children at play are beaching their coracles. We too have been there; we can still hear the sound of the surf, though we shall land no more” (12). I find this to be a very powerful observation on creativity and childhood, as really the whole book is such an observation.
With details like the kind-hearted Neverbird, the vicious mermaids (true to mermaid lore), the house they built around Wendy, and the underlying tension of possible romance between Peter and Wendy, the story of Peter Pan is much deeper and darker than Walt would have us believe. The story is a critique on childhood, on believing in magic, and on growing up and losing that childhood wonder. It is a literal case of characters experiencing fantasy to better understand the real world. It is also a bit of a tragedy, as exhibited when the children return home to the overjoy of their parents. “There could not have been a lovelier sight; but there was none to see it except a little boy who was staring in at the window. He had ecstasies innumerable that other children can never know; but he was looking through the window at the one joy from which he must be for ever barred” (147). Peter Pan gets to fly around and have adventures with mermaids and pirates. He never has to grow up, go to school, and get a boring job in the world. But it comes at a cost. He will be forever alone. That seems to be a profound statement in and of itself: if you refuse to grow up, you will be very lonely. I would argue that with this story, Barrie is arguing that while all children must grow up eventually, we should always remember not to loose our childhood wonder. We should not forget the magic in the world. J.K. Rowling may have made it popular to believe in magic again, but J.M. Barrie is the one who asked us to believe in fairies.
So what is this?
The short answer: I don’t actually know. It’s whatever I/we want it to be.
The long answer: It’s a list of books. Kind of like a bucket list, it’s a list of books I want to read/own before I die. But it’s so much more than that. Since I am an artist (see www.eaphotography.tumblr.com), and since I already make plenty of art based on or inspired by books I’ve read, which is my other passion, this blog will also document any and all art projects that result from reading books. It will record books that I acquire, books that I read as I’m reading them, and books that I want to read someday. It will likely also include all sorts of philosophical wonderings/musings that also come from reading these books. AND I invite you (that is, anyone at all) to contribute as well. Read along with me. Send me your suggestions for books to read, and let me know what you think of the books and my reactions to them. Heck, send me your reactions to books you’ve read! Send me your favorite quotes from books. Send me anything really. I thrive on interesting, intellectual conversations.
Send any and all comments/questions/concerns/suggestions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
So is this an art project? Maybe. I am sort of thinking of it as more of a “life project” than an art project. It will spawn art projects, for sure, but it is more of a life-long experience and project in and of itself.