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’ve been having trouble keeping my colours straight as I push my way through the rich-but-confusing class politics of “Shades of Grey” by Jasper Fforde.
The book is set some time in the distant future in (after checking with Wikipedia to confirm) the dystopian shadow of the former UK, where (half way through the book) we’re still not quite sure why rarefied colour perception either (a) exists at all or (b) is the basis for a rather forked up social order that defines literally everything the anyone is permitted to do… at least if they are following the rules.
Cracks are beginning to appear in the fragile perception of our protagonist and narrator as he approaches the time of his official testing (a vaguely described ceremony set for the impending future that will supposedly test his ability to see the colour red and which will cement his social status for the rest of his life) as he and his father are “temporarily” reassigned to a remote village after the suicide of the local healer.
For one, folks on the outskirts have their own variations of the rules, the kind of variations that lead many young freely-thinking protagonists in dystopian fiction to start questioning the fabric of the society who’s confines seem more and more arbitrary and restrictive as adolescence ends and in creeps an adulthood locked into a life as much enforcing the strange rules as obeying them.
“Shades of Grey” is interesting, but in a way… very English. It reminds me of something I couldn’t quite put my finger at first until, when the other night, we were watching an episode of Foyle’s War on Netflix, an English procedural-style crime drama set during the Second World War. I still lack the literary criticism chops to narrow down exactly why I’m left with that feeling, but I think it boils down to the understated pursuit of relatonships in the midst of something bigger, a something bigger that would be the central part of an American-centric story, but which takes a more peripheral role in English literature. It’s not qualitatively better or worse.. just English.
And so I read on…