Tuesday, 28 February 2006

Octavia Butler, Remembered Since I've blossomed into an "adult" no other author has moved me like she did. Part of growing up is throwing off the compulsions of your youth. No more reading juvenilia into wee hours. No more morning-lighters spent beside bowls of chocolate chips coated in Christmas colored jimmies. Once you're an adult you don't read like that anymore. Or so I thought. See I had spent years reading like an academic. Academics read with clear heads in strong light. They don't prop their eyes open because sleep seems unessential compared to the novel in their hands. They study. They don't love. I should know. But I loved Octavia Butler. I never met her, as some of my other favorite writers have, but I read her like I thought I was dying of cancer . . . and that was a year before I'd ever taken the thought of dying of cancer seriously. So I sat down to write this with all her novels arrayed on my desk. I wanted to scavenge each one for the passages which most moved me. But I don't want to scavenge anymore. Butler's prose bordered on the pedestrian. She was no natural stylist. Her prose bore the markings of craft . . . like Steinbeck in every other chapter of The Grapes of Wrath. But the ideas. The interaction. No one could stage complex social interaction like she could. To think that she died alone after striking her head on the pavement outside her home or on the operating table some hours later—accounts differ on whether a stroke caused the fall or the fall caused the stroke—belies imagination. For someone so concerned with community to die in its absence offends what little sense of universal justice I've retained. Her death angers me. If I'd known how frail she'd been I would've been up there tri-colored headband-in-hand and put her through the paces. She owed the world the brilliance. She lacked the right to leave us. She should be couped in a room right now writing the final installment in Lauren Olamina's saga. Instead she waits in state in a Seattle science fiction museum. As I said earlier she's the first favorite writer I've lost. Take this sorrow as a recommendation. Read her. She was a force. UPDATE: A reader informs me that the sequence of her novels can be confusing. It certainly can. Here's the order I'd recommend reading them: Patternmaster Clay's Ark Wild Seed Mind of My Mind Lilith's Brood Kindred Parable of the Sower Parable of the Talents I understand this ordering may be controversial, but remember that I work on evolutionary theory before lambasting me for underestimating Kindred.
One Vicious Whinge . . . . . . can be found below the fold. I really need to take a deep breath and just not post some nights. I want to thank everyone who inquired about my health and sanity after yesterday's post. Yesterday was one of those days which feints split fingers to your eyes only to land solid a knee in regions sunless and tender. Terrible beyond the telling it was. If I were within ICBM range of "normal" I could've shook it off with a thought. But I haven't slept soundly in over week because the drugs don't work anymore. No not those drugs. I'm no user. I'm a generic-thyroid-hormone-replacement-drug abuser. So if I sent you the email which confirmed your suspicion that I'm an unreliable drunk please reconsider. I'm no drunk. I'm in remission. (Maybe one day the doctors will tell me when one's cancer ceases its remission and I can be declared healthy again. I want my bona fides back.) So no real post tonight. I composed silly thing in which I replaced all the books on my desk with slight variations such that V For Vendetta became "Hey there Henrietta!" and Mervyn Peake "Heard 'Em Speak." But I've decided to spare you that disaster for the time being. So instead I'll treat you to the song which has had me in tears for days now. [The first person to remind me that my thyroid currently has undue influence over my emotions wins a swift kick to their very vulnerable shins.] Kevin's been posting about music of late and I feel left out. No more! I too am enamoured of the new Flaming Lips album and saddened by Grandaddy's demise—not to mention the other thing mentioned in that post that I'm still too choked up to comment on—but I wanted to share some Vanderslice with the masses. His brilliance is underappreciated and I aim to rectify that situation. So here is some [caution this link'll activate your default .mp3 player] vintage Vanderslice. It's called "Angela" but the song's more about the bunny than the bird. (Had I not been reading the Moore this afternoon "the bird" would never have entered my mind as appropriate. 'Cause it ain't. But it's awesomely alliterative so I left it there. Yes this is all an elaborate pun. I'd be less cryptic but I'm juiced like newly discovered Nabokov tonight.) This'd be the perfect moment to explain everything to everyone . . . but I refrain for fear of factors constraining and formulaic. More tomorrow. 'Cause those pins and needles fail to press significantly enough to feel. I get it. I'm a loser. Baby. So why don't you kill me. [Answer: I don't want to die. If I did I had myself opportunity enough.]

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