This month has been crazy busy. I realize now why I don’t get a chance to write the way I want to write; I have a family!
I’ve been trying to get this NaNoWriMo thing done, but I don’t know if it is actually going to get done. It is really hard to get the words on the paper; harder still to do it when you have people asking for help and needed you to make them lunches, wash their clothes, do their dishes. It is life and I wouldn’t change it for anything, but I wish I could get a week off.
And then there is the work I get paid to do. That gets in the way as well.
Any way, my Constantly Reading Momma stuff has been suffering because of this NaNoWriMo stuff, which I love. Suffice to say, I have been reading as much as possible (check out my Goodreads stuff over on the right there), and I should have a lot to tell you about in December.
Until then, here is a repost of my review of Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, since it’s up for a National Book Award, and those will be announced this week.
Repost from October 6th, 2014
“She was thinking about the way she’d always taken for granted that the world had certain people in it, either central to her days or unseen and infrequently thought of. How without any one of these people the world is a subtly but unmistakably altered place, the dial turned just one or two degrees. ” Miranda Carroll
“Because survival is insufficient.” Star Trek Voyager
Before the world ends, Arthur Leander, a famous actor, takes to the stage for Shakespeare’s King Lear. We are spectators as he suffers a heart attack and dies on stage. That is the last night of the world as it is known, as the Georgian flu swoops in and kills quickly, without remorse.
This is the beginning of Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
The book then jumps 20 years in the future, after the world is done and the survivors try to make their way. The book follows a troupe that travels from settlement to settlement, putting on Shakespeare and orchestra performances for the huddled survivors. The Traveling Symphony is a ragtag group of musicians and actors of varying ages. Our main character in this group is Kirsten, a young woman who was a child on the set of Leander’s Lear production (I know, there are no children in Lear, but they were doing something different).
The cast lives through religious zealots and attacks while on the road in Northern Michigan, where they have decided to head to an airport where there is a sort of camp and a Museum of Civilization, a repository of things remembered from a bygone age. Kirsten carries with her a gift from Arthur, two comic books (graphic novels?) created by his first wife, Miranda, called Station Eleven. These detail the exodus from earth and a life on a different planet, and a world Undersea. She cherishes them and reads them constantly.
The story hops back 20 years, to Arthur’s life and those in it. It hops forward to the night of his heart attack and the time immediately after, following the progress of Jeevan, a photographer/medical school dropout/EMT hopeful that attempted to save Arthur on stage, as he survives the flu and the world immediately after. And it hops to the books present, giving us Kirsten and the troop’s progress through upper midwest.
The troop’s motto (as well as the tattoo on Kirsten’s arm) is “Because Survival is Insufficient.” Music, art, and Shakespeare, go on because of this motto, and create a bit of humanity in settlements that are just surviving. Humanity needs to be relearned, and civilization must be regained even without a civilized world.
Station Eleven is a lyrical glimpse of a bleak, dystopian future, finding beauty in surprising ways. It centers around Arthur Leander, and his influences on a pre and post apocalyptic world. At this point, the book is on the long-list for the National Book Award, and it should be. Powerful and real, Mandel does a great job telling this story of hope and beauty in a future that is bleak and deadly.