Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Parable of the Sower & How to Cook Your Daughter

i just finished two books in the past week or so. the first was Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler, which i'm reading for my 2-person bookgroup. i've read a couple other Octavia Butler books (Kindred and Fledgling) but this is the one that everyone always tells me i should read. I like Butler's writing because it's conceptually really deep and whole, and structurally it just moves and moves. this is supposedly science fiction but there's nothing very far-fetched in it, it's just about the u.s. (california in particular) after shit has really started to fall apart - economic and environmental collapse, severe food and water shortages, most people are living/dying on the street, etc. the main character is a teenage girl who is working really hard to describe what is real for her, to find words for something that she can believe in, and share it with other people who might be open to it. she has a 'disorder' they call 'hyperempathy syndrome' which means she feels other people's pain. which is too bad for her because she lives in a seriously violent world. i like the part where she wonders if things would be different if more people felt each other's pain. in the end i thought it was a good book and good metaphor (or is it even a metaphor? maybe i should say 'extrapolation') but i had a hard time really attaching emotionally to the characters and the storyline, maybe because there was so much death, maybe because the religious framework she creates (and the 'logical' conclusion she draws from it) felt kind of cold and almost anti-earth.

the second book i read is called How to Cook Your Daughter by Jessica Hendra. her dad was a semi-famous comic writer and actor in the seventies and eighties (he played the band manager in 'Spinal Tap'). he wrote a book a few years ago that became a best-seller, which was supposedly a 'confessional' and a 'spiritual memoir,' but conveniently left out the fact that he molested his daughter. so Jessica wrote her own book. i'm proud of her for telling her truth and giving up on the hope of ever getting him to acknowledge and deal with their past. i appreciate the complicated way she tells the story - how much she loved him, how much hope she had that things could be resolved, the pain she went through in finally facing the damage he did, and the enormous risk she took by going public with her story. of course he publicly denies it but what do you expect. the title actually comes from a pedophilic article he wrote for the National Lampoon a couple months before he first molested her. the writing itself is nothing spectacular (she had a ghost writer to help write it) but i thought the story was powerful and relateable, and this was the right time for me to read it.


Tobi Vail said...

hi nomy, welcome to the bumpidee reader. here is a link to
Octavia Bulter's homepage

Is "how to cook your daughter" another novel?

nomy said...

hi tobi thanks for inviting me. i love talking about books online.

"how to cook your daughter" is a memoir - i wrote about it too but you have to click "read more" to see that part of my post...

Tobi Vail said...

oh yeah, i see. i am just getting used to this html stuff. i wanna review some novels here too, but i'm having a hard time figuring out how to write about fiction without being reductionist. any advice?