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The Dispossessed has such an excellent title. How many things does it refer to? To the Annaresti, who have renounced possession, so that it's a little bit of a pun; the Urrasti, too, no longer have possession, if nothing else, of Annares. Each planet has lost the other, and is in some way poorer for it. And there are the poor of Urras, who feel this most keenly, as well as the other, more direct dispossession of their class; and the aliens, with their ancient sadnesses; and Tirin, mad, and rejected by his people; and Shevek himself, not only on Urras (though there most dramatically), but for much of his life on Annares, often voluntarily. Away, so often, from his family (and Rulag, too, has lost her son). Obligations, and what it is to have things even when you don't, and what Takver thinks when she watches Shevek sleep, near the end of the book. I was moved enough by that paragraph this time around that I typed it up and sent it to Rachel; now I wonder that that may nearly have been a spoiler (unlike this paragraph - go figure). That passage may be the heart of it all.

The other thing that struck me about the book this time around was how much Shevek loved and believed in Annares, and how much he and others were able to criticize what it was doing. I draw strength from that, because I'm aware that I've often been a little ginger about expressing dissatisfaction with some function of Windsor House. I don't want to give others cause to smile in triumph and say, "Ha! So, it is a failed experiment." I don't want to imply even indirectly that it's less wonderful and less important than it really is. I don't want to sound like I'm rejecting it; I don't want to actually reject it. What if this criticism, looked at straight, is a rejection? No, says the book, it's not. It has a lot to say about this. It may be a little bit hubris on my part, but the analogy seems almost eerily direct.

I think I may have to end up putting this on my list of ten, after all. If it would knock out any, it would probably be Fahrenheit 451; I'll have to think about it.
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Classics

Sumana has a post about classics, and moral and immoral depictions in stories, which I find really interesting.

Ages ago, having been asked to, I put together a list of ten books (or chains of books) which had had great impact on me; I couldn't bear to choose favourites, so instead I tried to decide what was formative. I posted about five of them in my weblog (and one day still mean to cover the remaining five). These are books that remain landmarks for me; they provided substantial new metaphors with which to think about things, including, in many cases, ethical decisions. And a lot of that, of course, lies in that they depicted behaviours or difficulties that had never occurred to me, or better than they had ever occurred to me.

(His justification is that the very portrayal of the sin might influence a child who had not previously considered that sin.)

I think it's fair to say that all of those books - and others - are personal classics, though I'm not sure if they're all classics very far outside my sphere. If you asked me at the moment (as, clearly, I'm pretending that you have), I would say that a classic proper was something with that sort of impact on the general consciousness (or a fairly sizable subset, e.g. a classic of science fiction), and on other works thereafter. (At the Allentown gathering this winter, a number of us sat down to watch a portion of the anime series Uchuu no Stellvia. At one point, Nate remarked, "This is reminding me of Ender's Game," and most if not all of those in the room knew exactly what he meant.)

Considering this, Sumana's probably right that The Matrix ought to be counted, much as I might prefer that it be stricken from the canon (and perhaps replaced with Dark City). It didn't offer me anything new and worthwhile when I saw it, but it seems to have a lot of people, and it has had some effect on common vocabulary.

Used Books

There's a used book store near Lonsdale, on fifteenth, which I've been meaning to check out, and today I did. It's slightly more expensive than most, at $4.00 for a good-size paperback, and only moderately well-stocked in the speculative, but even so, I found The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin, which might have made my list of ten if I hadn't read it so long ago that I've forgotten all the plot, and The Waterborn, by J. Gregory Keyes, and The Doors Of His Face, The Lamps Of His Mouth, a collection of short stories by Roger Zelazny. I bought them all.

It's interesting; I feel very little attraction to the thought of 'shopping', in general (which means there are a great number of ads on the busses right now which miss me by a large margin), but there is an enormous, grinning, lighthearted satisfaction which is afforded to me by almost nothing but successfully shopping for books (occasionally music can do it). It's wonderfully energizing; it's one of those bizarre and entirely impractical things that I wish I could somehow make a living off of. The characters in the TV series have since devolved into caricature, but one of the things that caught at me when I first saw the first episode of the Read Or Die OAV, long ago, was its recognition of how good this feels. Yomiko is very easy for me to empathise with.

Coda

One of the few downsides of this house, as compared to my previous one, is that there are very few places well-suited to pacing in circles, but I was still able to instinctually seek one out while thinking about this entry.

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Andy H.

February 2013

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