Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else, 24/100

So how are you liking these late 1970s-ish book covers? They doing anything for ya? That guy's sweater needs to be burned.

And whoops! Looks like a skipped #24 is my count to 100. So here it is.

Very Far Away from Anywhere Else is one of the few non-SciFi titles from Ursula LeGuin. I read her novel Malafrena a few years back not knowing it was entirely historical fiction (albeit an imaginary history), and kept expecting wizards or aliens to pop-up at some point.

This short novella is about a teenage boy trying to cope with being an outsider and what his parents/society expect of him. You know, that age-old tale. He meets a girl who's dealing with the same issues and they become friends. They have deep, personal, and philosophical conversations... and yeah you know exactly where this is going before I even finish. Because it's a guy. And a girl. And they're teenagers. The big "can guys and girls be JUST friends?" problem comes up and their friendship suffers under it.

It's a short book but it packs quite a bit in. The story becomes a conversation over what "love" actually is, what it means to be alone vs. part of a group, and the responsibility we have towards others as well as to ourselves. LeGuin captures the teenage experience honestly and realistically. Anyone who has ever been seventeen knows this story.

I think what you mostly do when you find you really are alone is to panic. You rush to the opposite extreme and pack yourself into groups--clubs, teams, societies, types. You suddenly start dressing exactly like the others. It's a way of being invisible. The way you sew the patches on the holes in your blue jeans becomes incredibly important. If you do it wrong you're not with it. You have to be with it. That's a peculiar phrase, you know? With it. With what? With them. With the others. All together. Safety in numbers. I'm not me. I'm a basketball letter. I'm a popular kid. I'm my friend's friend. I'm a black leather growth on a Honda. I'm a member. I'm a teenager. You can't see me, all you can see it us. We're safe.

And if We see You standing alone by yourself, if you're lucky we'll ignore you. If you're not lucky, we might throw rocks. Because we don't like people standing there with the wrong kind of patches on their blue jeans reminding us that we're each alone and none of us is safe.

I guess I tend to think that important events should be solemn, and very grand, with muted violins playing in the background. It's hard to realize that the really important things are just normal little happenings and decisions, and when they turn on the background music and the spotlights and the uniforms, nothing important is going to happen at all.

1 comment:

  1. Hello,
    Can you help me identify the "theme" of this book?