So the new year came and I'm hoping that it'll beat the hell of one I had last year. I started by making a resolution to do more reading this year; I fell behind some on that lately and it wasn't until I read "Cruddy" by Linda Barry, on suggestion from a roommate, that I got back on the kick. It's a story of a young girl living in a family lacking money and love, meeting friends to take on a trip to retrace a harsh journey she had with her father. Death and overwhelming circumstances plague her, and we are left feeling totally cruddy reading the story. But the way Linda writes it all has the intensity of a true story being told vividly and honestly. There is not really much hope in the story itself, but some lies in the telling of it.
I moved onto Ursula Le Guin again. I had only read “The Dispossessed” and “The Left Hand of Darkness”, both good reads, but I decided for new years resolution to try to read a book a week; starting with all of her books. So I picked up “The Birthday of the World” from the library. 8 stories in all, five of which I really liked. “Solitude” is about a community of people who do not share their homes with each other; socializing is done while out foraging; sex and communication both. People do not visit one another’s homes. Ursula explores how societies can rely on systems of power, in individual relationships; and in this world, people see their solitude as power over oneself and an avoidance of falling under the spells of other people. “The matter of Seggri” explores a system where power lies in the hands of women instead of men; exploring the shifting of the society after the men begin to be liberated. Commenting on our own system in more subtle and extraordinary ways than many historical books I have read. Another story explores gender and sex relations in a world where marriages are made up of four people, two men and two women; where not everyone in the partnership sleeps together, but everyone is to sleep with a member of the same and opposite sex. Through this relationship, Ursula explores what constitutes a marriage and the ways in which people within a community support each other. The people within the arrangement also demonstrate the imperfections with any standard created in a society; that there are ways that tradition will not work for everyone, but also how people can respect and alter tradition for their own happiness. Another story explores a society where people change their gender through the rituals of sex; that sex is done in a certain time and one’s gender can change each time they leave their homes to engage in sex in the places where it is done. Ursula is a great science fiction writer, whose writing explores gender, sex, family, community, government, systems of oppression. The next book I read was “The Eye of the Heron”, a small novel about a community with two classes, both exiled from Earth; one side because of their beliefs in nonviolence, peace, and consensus; and another for less noble reasons. The story explores class issues through the clashing of a peaceful working class people against the violent tranny of the wealthy classes. And ultimately, towards the creation of a new world outside of this dichotomy.
I’m off to start the Earthsea trilogy. I’m most interested in immersing myself in fantasy right now. For the great storytellers who encourage thought and present visions of better worlds; and also as escapism from my life. Go read some Ursula Le Guin now.