Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Two worth reading

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

Changing Planes cover I've been planning to recommend Ursula K. Le Guin's delightful book, Changing Planes, since I discovered it a few weeks ago. The reward for procrastination is an opportunity to pair it with Jose Saramago's unusual book, The Cave.

Changing Planes presents itself as a sly travelogue, a collection of short stories that describe some of the planes of existence a traveler can reach after experiencing the peculiar combination of stress, boredom, and indigestion that occurs only in a modern airport.

The book's back cover blurb observes that Le Guin's stories of exotic places and peoples all reflect the here and now of 21st century life. Most notable for me were the perpetually annoyed and squabbling people of Veks, the reckless genetic experiments on Islac, the thoughtful people of Ansarac who took some bad advice but abandoned it for their own time-tested wisdom, and the sad holiday island of Great Joy.

While searching Le Guin's web site for supplementary links I noticed her recommendation of Nobel prize-winner Jose Saramago's books, Seeing, Blindness, and The Cave. The titles Seeing and Blindness caught my eye because I've written a bit myself about seeing and not seeing. Saramago's writing style may challenge us, but readers who appreciate William Faulkner's page-long streams of consciousness should be equally comfortable with Saramago's technique. What Saramago's charming characters discover deep within The Cave is both disturbing and liberating:

They are us!



The Cave and other books by Jose Saramago are available from Powell's and from local bookstores

Ursula K. Le Guin's web site is worth exploring

“We shall not cease from exploration...”
quoted from Four Quartets, by T.S. Eliot


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