Saturday, March 24, 2012

Is The Hunger Games anti-war?
(And if not, why not?)

now reading in English: Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior and President by Ari Hoogenboom
now reading online in French: Douze ans de sejour dans la haute Ethiopie by Arnauld d'Abbadie
now listening on my MP3 player when I exercise: The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

As much as I don't enjoy reading multiple books at a time, it just works out that way when the medium is unique for each one.  I never used to listen to audio books, and I still can't stand to listen to fiction being read to me AT ALL, but I have discovered that I can listen to non-fiction. It's kind of like listening to intelligent news/public radio. So anyway, I'm making my way through these three works, at different times and in different places.

Anyone notice what I'm currently not reading? That's right, The Hunger Games. But fear not! You will be happy to know, ye of the "ZOMG!-it's-SO-amazing!" persuasion, that I am planning to read it as soon as I get to the top of the holds list at the good ol' Phoenix library. (No, I'm not going to buy it. I prefer to buy books that need my dollars more, and check out from the library something that is already a runaway bestseller and that I am not sure if I'll love.) I think I will actually reach the top of said library holds list fairly soon, as I have gone from position #236 on the holds list to #29 in just a week and a half.

So yes, I am planning to read The Hunger Games, and I will probably see the film, too, and I am not at all concerned about seeing the movie soon, because frankly there is nothing I hate more than being packed into a crowded theater, because I prefer silence with my films. I never ever ever go see movies on the days they come out. Ever. I verrrrrrrrrrry rarely go see films on Friday or Saturday at all. I like having lots of empty seats around me. Anyway, I have actually been vaguely planning to maybe read the novels for a year and a half or so, because the constant EW coverage and some of what I read in the blogosphere started to convince me they were worth a read. Of course, in 2010 when I started to become intrigued by The Hunger Games I also capitulated and read Men Who Hate Women aka in the U.S. as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and it was so overrated that I promptly did not read the next 2 Stieg Larsson books and I went back to ignoring bestselling series for a while, but I've come back around to The Hunger Games because it's so short and YA, so how much of a mental investment can it be, really? And because it's anti-war.

I mean, I thought it was anti-war.

I certainly read about it being anti-war. In the aforementioned EW coverage for starters. I've read a lot about the book in the last two years, much of it straight from Suzanne Collins' mouth, and I have a distinct impression of an anti-war message. But today I've been following the discussion of some friends (who have actually read the books?) as to whether it is in fact anti-war. So I poked into the blogosphere a bit on this specific topic, and I think what I'm discovering is that there might be more disagreement on what it means to be anti-war more than there is  disagreement about The Hunger Games.

And I certainly don't think it is exclusively anti-war. Of course it is also anti-totalitarian evil f#&*$ in government and anti-infatuation-with-glamorized-entertainment-at-the-expense-of-real-people's-tragedies and so on. Why would those things prevent it from being an anti-war allegory?

But clearly I need to read it, because there is more to this than meets my eye. So, what do you think? WITHOUT SPOILERS, give me your opinion: is The Hunger Games anti-war?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Killers for Life

now finished: Intimate Wars by Merle Hoffman
now reading: Rutherford B. Hayes: Warrior & President by Ari Hoogenboom
now listening: The Blind Side by Michael Lewis

I found this Merle Hoffman book especially interesting what with all the fracas over birth control in the national media of late. Intimate Wars: The Life and Times of the Woman Who Brought Abortion from the Back Alley to the Board Room is a so-so memoir in the personal-life-recollection parts, but a fascinating inside look at this country's power structures in the history-of-abortion-reality parts. To be even more precise, it's a look at how those power structures affect people who don't have anywhere near as much power, including women who need abortions. And it's a look at what it took to make Choices, her clinic in New York, a reality.

I recommend Intimate Wars because I think more people need to take an unflinching but realistic look at abortion. In the book, Merle Hoffman specifically does not try to downplay anything, including the reality of abortion, which helps all the more to drive home her point that the "other side" (i.e., the anti-choicers outside her clinic who threaten her staff and make bomb threats while calling themselves "pro-life") are very much engaged in the business of lying about the reality of abortion. If they can make up some grisly picture and convince everyone this is what abortion looks like, they rally people to their side. Who needs facts when you can have grisly wedge issue titillation?

She details how much violence and threat of violence she and other clinics faced in the 1980s and 1990s, a history that must not be forgotten. If those anti-choicers get their way, there is such a terrible lot of violence, either against abortion providers (when abortion is legal) or against women's bodies (in back allies and other butcheries, when abortion is not legal).  

Bonus:  Merle Hoffman has traveled to Russia a few times (including when it was the Soviet Union) and there are interesting looks at what was going down there vis-a-vis women's health as well.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Revisiting Philip K Dick

now finished: VALIS by Philip K. Dick

Despite my occasional sigh-fi wall, Philip K. Dick made the top half of my A-to-Z Literary Blog Project authors, and I read a second book of his, VALIS.  Or is it Valis? It gets written both ways. The book didn't blow me away, but it was enjoyable. I recall that the first PKD book I read, Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, was greatest in its last third, and I think somewhere between the halfway to two-thirds-of-the-way points of this one would where I started to most enjoy it, too.

Really, though, in the end, what I enjoyed about this book were the pithy quotes that I find awesome both in and out of context. So, I decided to share here my  Top Eight Valis quotes. With no further ado:

"A lot can be said for the infinite mercies of God, but the smarts of a good pharmacist, when you get down to it it, is worth more."  -- p. 44

"Sherri resented every creature on earth, in order of proximity to her; that is the more she had to do with someone or something the more she resented him, or her or it." -- p. 89

"You can understand why Fat no longer knew the difference between fantasy and divine revelation -- assuming there is a difference, which has never been established." --p. 101

"Someone is playing a board game with time, someone we can't see. It is not God. That is an archaic name given to this entity by societies in the past, and by people now who are locked into anachronistic thinking. We need a new term, but what we are dealing with is not new." - p. 119

"...on Judgment Day and they're going to laugh at him like he laughs at us. That's what he deserves: a Great Judge exactly like himself.  That's not a bad theological idea," I said. "You find yourself facing yourself." -p.129

"It would not be in China, nor in India or Tasmania for that matter, that Horselover Fat would find the fifth Savior. Valis had shown us where to look: a beer can run over by a passing taxi. We had just saved Fat a lot of money, plus a lot of wasted time and effort, including the bother of obtaining vaccinations and a passport." - p. 158

"God can be good and terrible--not in succession--but at the same time.  This is why we seek a mediator between us and him; we approach him through the mediating priest and attenuate and enclose him through the sacraments. It is for our own safety; to trap him within confines which render him safe." - p 178

"It is amazing that when someone else spouts the nonsense you yourself believe you can readily perceive it as nonsense." --  p. 210