Sunday, December 02, 2007

One down, far to go

This week I read Doris Lessing's The Story of General Dann and Mara's Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog, her sequel to Mara and Dann.

It wasn't so much of a letdown as I'd been led to expect. On the other hand, while it could stand as its own story, I don't see it working for someone who doesn't have the baggage of Mara and Dann.

For all the other characters named in the title, it's mostly about Dann. I'd've liked to hear more about Griot. But Griot doesn't seem to know himself very well — he doesn't remember his childhood; he realizes that he's not particularly clever, or charismatic, or ambitious even, and he's jealous of people who are; he's never really questioned himself or his way about things — no one's ever asked him "What did you see?" (but really see) — but maybe he's just starting to when the story ends.

As I said, it's mostly about Dann — Dann wandering around and not doing much at first, and then Dann moping about and being depressed. Which finally made sense to me, because if you've been wandering around your whole life struggling against starvation and drought and slavery and tyranny and war and evil in general, and you somehow get past it all, and you keep wandering around and all you see around you is people fighting more of the same kind, or some variation, of starvation and flooding and slavery and tyranny and war and evil in general, you start to think what is the fucking point of it all. Which is what Dann does. And like all the millions of people who've lived Dann's life and got past it, Dann gets past it too. More or less.

The writing is simple. In Mara and Dann the style helps lend it the quality of fable. This story doesn't have the sweep to let simple stand; it's more psychological and could do with more exposition. On the other hand, given the phrasing, I can hear the story being told — it's of an oral tradition — which lends it sincerity.

Blah, blah, blah, don't bother reading it unless you're a big Lessing fan; it's kind of depressing.

*****

I'm finding my reading rhythm again. I hadn't realized how important was reading on my short commute until I'd lost that rhythm. And how important it is to have this respite as the weather grows colder and the commute becomes more unpleasant (I no longer shake my head and gripe to myself — I speak up. Don't lean on the pole — 6 people need to hold on to that pole. Move away from the door — look, 3 people could stand in that pocket you've created — no matter if you're getting off next stop. Speaking up gets results, dammit.). The trick is having a book in hand; it's not good enough to have one tucked in my bag somewhere. And just do it: read while waiting, read in the metro, while standing and hanging on for dear life, but considerately — keep your book close; rummaging about in your bag will not do. Read while waiting for your espresso (allongĂ© 3/4) to be drawn. Just do it, like going to bed early and eating right and walking more and blogging.

2 comments:

martha said...

I'm glad you are finding the reading rhythm on your commute. It sounds as though you have it all down to a science. I always liked commuting via public transportation, when I was doing it. I got a lot of reading done.

iwonka said...

I think you need a 'kindle'