Twenty-Fifteen: I’m doing something I’ve been putting off for far too long. I’m getting serious about reading, again. I’ve dusted off my paperbacks and charged up my Kindle. It’s time to take the time to feed my poor television-adled brain with a selection of healthy, nourishing fiction. So, read on, little brain. Read on. We’re going Book to the Future!
I was feeling a little bit self-conscious on the train this afternoon. It was packed, standing-room only, but I’d pulled out my Kindle before we boarded so I could read. But, packed into the car (as they say) like sardines in a can, I was acutely aware of the University kid who was reading bits and pieces of The Man in the High Castle over my shoulder.
I was also acutely aware that the book uses no shortages of pejoratives in the hypothetical alternate-reality-nazi dialogue, and that one of those particular richly awkward passages was displayed on the screen of my e-reader.
I’ve been enjoying the book. It’s an easy read, if not a little cringe-worthy because of those awkward passages. But then it’s dystopian science fiction, and that’s kinda the point isn’t it?
As the story has panned out a few of the characters have become a little more rounded and fleshed out, though I would argue that none of them are truly relatable. The story is a kind of meta-story. It is a cast of intertwined players living in an alternate version of post-World War II North America, one where the Axis won said war and subjugated the remnants of the allied populations. But to make things even more complicated, the characters are also intertwined with a book called “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy” which they are all somehow reading or involved with. That book, a banned book, is an alternate fiction novel too, a story of a hypothetical world where the US, Britain and Russia won the Second World War.
Obviously, the reader is in the position where the book-within-the-book is closer to the reader’s reality than the book itself, and this makes for an odd sort of analysis, particularly since the alternate-alternate-fiction doesn’t quite get the facts right either: it’s an alternate interpretation of the world from the alternate perspective played out in the novel.
There are other elements, too, of course. There is an interesting analysis of the post-war actions of two groups that (while they obviously and thankfully never played out in reality) are interesting to contemplate academically. This is a kind of re-emphasis of the oft-quoted fact that history is written by the victors, and there is an allegory of a walk-a-mile-in-another-man’s-shoes kind of moral-to-the-story that is prescient for even now, in 2015, when we are dealing with class-type privilege and gender-inequality and racial-religious-cultural-tension as a result of divvying up the spoils of long-past victories and taking for granted the multi-generation-long advantages such have bestowed on certain groups over others.
I still have about half of the book to read, so perhaps I’m coming to conclusions a bit early… but that’s what’s been striking a chord with me so far.