Octavia Butler, where have you been all my life? Well, I actually know the answer to that question: you were in the science fiction section of the bookstore, a section I never went into. Why did I never go into that section, though? If I had ever thought consciously about it, I would have thought perhaps that there was nothing there for me that I’d be interested in.
At some point, probably in my prior post when I recommended my women’s library starter pack, I should have qualified that I have a tendency to really like books where not much happens. I am partial to writers like Willa Cather, Jeanette Winterson, and Djuna Barnes, where language, atmosphere, and characterization are all emphasized over that pesky thing, plot development. Plot! Bah! When things happen in a book, it’s so stressful. I get so worried for the characters, I sometimes have to put the book down. It’s too much! Maybe that’s why I studied so much poetry in college.
I’m being facetious here, but I really do prefer atmosphere over plot, so maybe beware of books I recommend, because others might consider them slow-moving. And this may be the reason I never gravitated to science fiction naturally, because in the few books I have read in the genre, A LOT happens, and they are usually very stressful happenings!
Kindred isn’t an exception, but I was entranced from the first pages. How wonderful the writing is, and how invested I was in Dana’s story right away. As I understand it, Kindred is pretty standard in a lot of high school curriculum these days, but when I was in high school that was not yet true, so I was never assigned any book by Octavia Butler (not even in college).
In fact, I very much wish to go back in time and recommend that the syllabus of the Modern Novel class I took in 2001 at Wells College replace Marge Piercy’s Woman On the Edge of Time with Octavia Butler’s Kindred. Please? It would have turned that class from really great to wonderfully perfect.
I have not yet finished Kindred, but that’s actually because I’m forcing myself to slow it down and take my time with it. If I let myself, I could read big chunks of it in long sittings and finish it very quickly. But the writing is so good, I’m trying to extend my enjoyment of it.
It was disheartening to learn that Octavia Butler died so young, at 58, but I look forward after finishing Kindred to exploring more of her work, and more science fiction work by women. I have clearly been missing out on quality work by missing that section of the bookstore all these years.
Which of course, made me think – how many more books have I denied myself the pleasure of reading because they were hiding in genre sections instead of in “General Fiction”? A lot, probably…which means more exploring and research to do to build this library!