I most often read non-fiction; stories about societies or individuals in times of strife, war, anarchy, disease, and pestilence. I am often humbled by the civility and dignity that these individuals and groups maintain when the proverbial ca-ca has hit the fan. As for fiction, there seem to be many dystopian pieces of work out there that often depict chaos, death, and destruction. And it seems to me that often these are admired or worshipped by a mentality that wishes this was the reality. Comparatives of that norm would be to look at Darfur or Rwanda and ask why one would be happy in that dystopia. Is there something to prove in sinking to the lowest common denominator? Here are a couple of titles that go against that norm.
The Plague by Albert Camus
I am struck by how quiet this story is. How quiet the people who are suffering from this blight are. Is this a misguided hope that there is some civility in suffering? Though in the background there are scenes of perhaps panic and disorder. There is no overall anarchy which is often presented as the norm of behavior in times of strife. Here the population, after the initial shock withdraws. And despite the camaraderie of a shared condition, the only reality is that we are all in the end “alone” in our mortality.
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
A coming of age tale of a young girl turning 12 going on forever. One Saturday morning Julia and all awake to a world that has changed. News reports of the earth’s rotation slowing bombards the airwaves. The scientist don’t know why and don’t know how long it will continue or when it will stop, if ever. The results of this could be catastrophic for the planet. Will crops grow? Will gravity be affected? Will we all die tomorrow? There are no answers for this. So while at the beginning of the story there is some chaos and panic, eventually there is an acceptance and there is also the obvious, that life goes on. The question is what do we continue to be or become when we really don’t know what tomorrow will bring? Should you do well on your test, continue to work, go to college when it could all end tomorrow. Do we choose to just let go and give up? Or do we decide to live whatever life may be left with grace and hope?