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I listened to an audiobook edition of Kindred by Octavia Butler. It is fucking brilliant, and really disturbing because it is about slavery and abusive relationships. It is also depressing because it's about unpleasant parts of US history. But that's not the whole story.
lots of spoilers, and if you haven't read it, you don't want to be spoiled about some of them )

There are also notes of hope. Several of the characters who have cross-racial interactions gradually move toward seeing at least some people of the other race as human—that is, similar enough to themselves to attempt communication. I imagine that Butler is saying there is a human urge to see other people as equal humans, and that if there’s enough interaction between people who start out as Other to each other, eventually Similar will start to infiltrate. But there are cultural and historical and personal reasons why, in a slave-owning society, no one on either side can fully replace Other with Similar.

I found Kindred a compelling read in a way that Parable of the Talents wasn't for me.

There's a certain emotional detachment in both books, at the same time that Butler describes some horrific behavior and screwed up relationships. I'm not sure if the detachment I sense is due to the way the audiobook narrators chose to approach the works, or if I would have felt the same way if I read the books on paper. Butler's characters for the most part are survivors, whose response to suffering is to get up and go back to the work of surviving and at the same time following their dreams. So it feels as if some of the emotional hard stuff is diluted or buried in hard work. On the other hand, what this also means is that Butler anchors her stories very strongly in the work the characters do and therefore in day to day living.
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I just gobbled up another Walter Mosley audiobook, The Tempest Tales. This book is a tightly woven collection of short stories (not quite a novel, but not really independent stories either).

general spoilers )
On the surface the conversations seem to be about religion, and you’ll probably get more out of the book if you are glancingly familiar with Christian religious tropes such as St Peter, Heaven, Hell, judgement, Lucifer, and so on. (However, for reasons that are unclear to me, although I'm quite sure it's deliberate, Mosley never mentions Jesus.) But I don’t think the book or the conversations are really about religion when you get right down to it. Religion, and the bureaucratic, rule-bound heaven that Mosley makes up, is standing in for the system that glorifies government and corporations at the expense of people, that oppresses poor people and people of color, and that tries to brainwash people into believing that they have to mindlessly follow rules that don’t make sense in the real world.

I’m afraid I’m making the book sound really dour and boring. There really are a lot of conversations about ethics and they get a little repetitive toward the end, but the book is playful and moving with lots of really funny moments.

The audiobook is produced by Griot Audio, a division of Recorded Books that specializes in books by African-American writers, narrated by African-American performers. This book is really well narrated by Ty Jones. As a white person, I don’t know much about African-American speech patterns, and I don’t get as much out of reading books that rely on those speech patterns as some people might, because I can’t reproduce them accurately in my head. So it helps my appreciation a lot to listen rather than read.


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firecat (attention machine in need of calibration)

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