February 23rd, 2008

reading/writing, books

The Known World

I'm still reading The Known World, but I'm finding it a bit trying, because it jumps around in time constantly (often jumping within the same paragraph) and there are a lot of different characters to keep track of. Still, I've certainly never found it boring.

It has presented a very complex portrait of slavery, with some slaves seeming happy with their lot while others (the ones I understand more readily) make repeated attempts to escape or buy their freedom. And some of the things the slave owners do and say seem rational, while others seem horrible. Some of the story is from the perspective of the slaves, some from the perspective of free blacks, some from the perspective of slave owners -- all with an omniscient narrator -- so it's never simple.

Thus far (about 3/4 of the way through), there's been one plot point that has upset me, when a free man was sold into slavery. I'm not sure why that bothers me so much more than characters who have always been slaves. I would say it seems like an injustice for him to be sold back into slavery after he had spent years earning the money to buy his freedom, but all slavery is injustice. I guess I'm buying in to the difference between slave and non-slave on some level. Reading this book is like being immersed in that world, so I'm not surprised it's affecting the way I see things. The way I read -- jumping into a book and then rarely coming out until I've finished -- probably strengthens the effect.

Speaking of which, off I go to read more.
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reading/writing, books

The Known World

Just hit something in The Known World that surprised me:

They were all members of a free Negro class that, while not having the power of some whites, had been brought up to believe that they were rulers waiting in the wings. They were much better than the majority of white people, and it was only a matter of time before those white people came to realize that.


I didn't think Southern whites at the time had given any blacks the freedom to believe that they were better in any way. The way this is written, it implies that the whites didn't grant this freedom, that it was one the free blacks claimed for themselves. But when a free black man can have his papers destroyed and be sold into slavery at the whim of a white man, it must be hard to develop a sense of being better. Morally better, certainly, but not socially "better." I would think that would be hard.

In some ways, I'm impressed by these people, that they could develop a sense of themselves that goes against everything said by the people with the most power. But I'm also disappointed in them that they still think someone needs to be better than someone else. They are just inverting the dynamic, not changing it.
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me blue hair

(no subject)

Raining again today. It's been a very wet winter.

I stayed inside reading most of the day and finished The Known World. It has left me hesitant to start another book, because I'm still thinking. Next on my plate is Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere -- for the Xenagia book club -- which may give me whiplash immediately following The Known World. If I wasn't on a schedule for the book club, I would probably next read In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje. But I am on a schedule, so it'll be Neverwhere.

My new proofreading project arrived on Friday, so I'll be starting work on Monday.
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