Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Post-Colonial Time Traveling Magical Art

Sorry, you once again get a multi-book post. Blame work; it's killing my brain and my motivation.

This past week was Sacré Bleu by Christopher Moore. Now it'd be very hard for him to ever live up to Lamb. Which has to be one of the funniest, most moving, religious books I've read. If you haven't read it, immediately go out and buy it. Cancel all appointments for the next couple of days. But this? Was pretty damn good. I won't give away too much of the plot, since one of the best parts of the book is figuring out exactly what is going on. But a large part deals with art over the centuries, what role emotion plays in all that, and what inspires an artist. Art without sadness or passion? Is empty. Art expresses humanity, and at the heart of humanity is emotion.

The book plays off of that; paintings that were painted while the painter was experiencing love or hate or depression are more powerful and useful. More interesting, though, is the suggestion that in some ways, life can be art. Acts of violence and war can be just as powerful as a painting of a woman or man that the artist loved. Strangely, within the novel, it is only those violence that can be a substitute for created art. Other emotions, while equally as strong, are only enough when they are expressed through other mediums. It seems as though Moore, then, is arguing that emotion is most powerful when it leads to other actions, painting or sketching or killing. The act, fueled by the emotion, becomes what matters, and in the end, the best art, the most inspired, requires blood.

The week before was The Buddha of Suburbia. I feel like I should have more to say about this; it won an award, I'm pretty sure that I bought it for a class. It's definitely post-colonial, and deals with issues of how immigrants deal with questions of identity and what their nationality means. The main characters are nearly all Indians living in England; there are the usual questions of what it means to be an other in a culture. The main character fights less with active racism (although he does deal with it) and more with stereotyping. He's an actor forced to play the part of his nationality, but that part is a caricature. Even when he bases his role off of real people in his life, it becomes a farce, and the lines between himself and the caricature are blurred.

And the week before was Cloud's End. Cloud's End reminded me of when I was in a creative writing class in college. See, I wrote a short story about a girl who meets what she thinks is a magical character. The ending was ambiguous; was she crazy, or was there actually another reality? The other fantasy fans in the class loved the ending; the non-fantasy fans hated it. "What happened?!" they cried. "Did she die? What was real?" Cloud's End leaves you with the same questions, but even more tied into identity than the story I wrote. The novel continuously asks what makes a person themselves? Is it memories? Is it an innate selfness? Can someone be replaced without loved ones noticing?

There is also a constant question of survival, tied to emotions. Again and again, you see couples or pairs with deep emotions connecting them, and one must destroy the other to survive, or one thinks that they must destroy the other. Love and creation are almost always paired with death and destruction. One begets the other, necessitates it. While humanity tries to ignore that basic fact, the plot throws the characters again and again into facing it. And in the end, who knows if good or evil won. How can you even tell which is which, when life necessitates death?

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