Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Nevermore: Matheson, Genova, Kushner, Tyson, Chang, Butler

 Reported by Ambrea

Nevermore jump-started their meeting off with The Best of Richard Matheson.  Best known for his novel I Am Legend and his work on Twilight Zone, Matheson was a master of twentieth-century horror and fantasy.  According to the cover synopsis, “Matheson revolutionized horror by taking it out of Gothic castles and strange cosmos and setting it in the darkened streets and suburbs we recognize as our own.”  Our reader picked up Matheson on a whim and, while she didn’t regret picking up a collection of his greatest works, she noted that she didn’t finish much of it.  “I made it through two chapters, but I had to stop [because] it scared me,” she admitted.  She noted that Matheson had a gift for the frightening, creating stories that had a heavy emotional impact—“a lot of oomph,” she said—and an underlying feeling of suspense that left her shoulders coiled with dread long after she put the book aside.

Next, Nevermore explored Factory Girls:  From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang, which offers a look at the everyday lives of the migrant factory population of China.  More than 130 million migrant workers live and toil in China’s cities, many being young women from impoverished, rural towns.  Our reader had previously explored Two Years on the Yangtze and Country Driving:  A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory by Peter Hessler, who happens to be married to Chang, and she thought Factory Girls was a wonderful book to round out her exploration of China.  Although she noted the book was rather long, she thoroughly enjoyed Chang’s book.  It was an interesting and in-depth study of women who had the courage to uproot their lives and start fresh somewhere else.

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson was very popular with our next reader.  A quick but concise examination of the universe, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry offered incredible insight into the subtleties of astrophysics such as the nature of space and time, humanity’s place in the universe, and what quantum mechanics really mean.  “[The author] admitted there are things they don’t know,” our reader said, “and I was thrilled about that.”  He noted that, as a scientist, Tyson was willing to admit that human knowledge is still growing and expanding like the universe; moreover, he offered reflections on the cosmic perspective that was both enlightening and truly fascinating.

Nevermore also checked out a new book by Lisa Genova:  Every Note Played.  In her new novel, Genova tells the story of Richard, a world-renowned concert pianist with ALS, and his estranged wife, Karina, who is living an unfulfilling life as a piano teacher—and, soon, Richard’s reluctant caretaker.  As Richard slowly succumbs to his disease, he and Karina must reconcile their tumultuous past and learn forgiveness before it’s too late.  Our reader said, “This is a book that will make you cry.”  Although it was rather depressing and, of course, tragic, she noted that Every Last Note was incredibly well written, beautifully told, and wonderfully enlightening.

Next, Nevermore took a look at Kindred by Octavia Butler.  Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when, suddenly, she is transported from her home in California to the antebellum South—somehow summoned through time to save Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner.  Time and again, Dana is drawn back to the old plantation and each stay is longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until Dana fears her life will end long before it even begins.  Our reader, who is a fan of Butler, said she really enjoyed reading Kindred.  She noted that the author seriously researched her subject, drawing on historical details to give the story a strong sense of place and an astonishing emotional impact.  She highly recommended it to her fellow readers, along with Butler’s other works Fledgling and Lilith’s Brood.

Last, but certainly not least, Nevermore shared Angels in America by Tony Kushner.  Set in the 1980s, Angels in America is a Pulitzer prize-winning pair of plays that follows the interweaving lives of Prior, Louis, Joe, Harper, and Roy Cohn as they attempt to reconcile the disheartening truths of their world—and the heartbreaking reality of AIDS within the gay community.  Our reader said, “[Kushner’s play] was a tough book, but, at the same time, it’s tough to put it down.”  It’s very real, very raw, and limned with unexpected bouts of humor and heart-wrenching moments of tragedy.  Although she wouldn’t say she loved Angels in America, she liked it very much and she recommended it to anyone who might enjoy a serious, thought-provoking play on human nature.

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