What I’m Reading
I’m a promiscuous reader, enjoying non-fiction and fiction in all genres. Recently, at the behest of my daughter, I read Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy, and was enveloped by the page turning plot, the heroine’s personality, and the description of the dismal world of the future. Each chapter (and indeed each book) ended with a cliffhanger, which induced me (an easily lead reader) to read on, spending hours entertained.
Several months ago, I read David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. Yes, I was entertained, each of the six entwined stories in the novel are riveting. But more than that, his brilliant language and encompassing knowledge, his ability to change voice into six different personas, and the overarching themes zipping through centuries of humanity stay with me. The translit novel allows the writer to explore flashbacks as well as foretell consequences centuries and continents distant. And it provides a profound and fascinating way to explore overarching themes.
As I write this, I realize these two books have several things in common. Both writers love their characters and thus wrote fully rounded people who do surprising things. They both focus on the effects of the will to power with the resulting oppression and malevolence of one group over another. As Mitchell says, the warning implicit in both plots is: In an individual selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.