Sunday, July 26, 2009

fantasy and me

First thing, a comment on the new Harry Potter film. i'm beginning to believe that the time between films is a good thing - i remembered the plot only in a vague way, and appreciated the movie more for it. One thing i miss, however, is the ambient magic; there were no moving staircases and fewer background enchantments (such as moving pictures) in this film. Although when i think of it, the last film might have also had less of that as well. Which is too bad, because that's part of what made me really appreciate these movies; they provide a continual detail that the books lack, simply because after the first few books the focus becomes more on Potter and plot, and less on the amazing Hogwarts environment.

Secondly, upon finishing Butler's Kindred I felt a great deal of satisfaction with the book. i liked that it was very clear that the Rufus, the white boy who grows into a slaveowner, is not miraculously turned into an empathetic abolitionist becuase of Dana's influence; he is kinder than his father, but still intensely selfish. The book didn't have a happy ending, and that was appropriate. History never has a neat, happy ending. And Dana was such a strong, admirable woman; she is the heroine that Margarat Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale lacks. The type of female character, the type of black woman, that we need in literature.

The Canadian school system currently teaches a number of fictional slave narratives, some focusing on a young girl, others on a young boy. i fail to remember specific titles, unfortunately. These novels typically feature a child making their way to freedom; and usually end with that objective achieved--and they live happily ever after in the North. It is a very different thing to read about slavery from the perspective of a modern, adult woman, because adults are much more cognisant of danger and of mortality, and because a modern person is unable to see slavery through the lense of normalcy (at least at first; one of the points of the novel is that one can become accustomed to almost anything). Kindred was a very worthwhile read, and i will be finding more Octavia E. Butler novels in future.

There is a lot more that could be said about Kindred, and i'm sure there's a great deal of literature out there about the novel. It blends fantasy and fiction, it brings together that which is impossible and that which should have been impossible. In the way that the best science fiction does, it makes the reader question what it means to be human, and what it means to have a connection to a violent and tragic history. In the most literal way, Dana is damaged by her time travel; she looses an arm on her final trip home to the present. The absense of her arm will assert the presence of the past for the rest of her life. The scars of history are indelible.

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