Station Eleven

Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel

What I liked: the writing. The writing, the writing, the writing. So this book was especially meaningful to me, because I write, too. She jumps back and forth through time but you don’t have to work at it to keep up.

You know, there’s some art to misdirection; to subtlety; to ambiguity. But there’s no art to just hiding the ball, and that’s what so many authors do in the mis-invoked name of Art.  There’s no virtue, to my mind, of reducing the text to the point that it’s incomprehensible. If I have to keep looking back to figure out where a new plot line comes from, or who the heck this person is whose mind I’m suddenly sharing, then I’m just irritated, not impressed. So, if you’re going to do something like jump around in time, for goodness’ sake do it in a way I can follow. Do what Ms. Mandel does here: create literature that is readable. It’s really a tribute to the author that she can jump around in time and tie together so many loose threads in such a compelling way, all the while communicating an actual story, rather than an avant-garde literary pose.

I like apocalypse stories because they’re a way of clearing the underbrush, so to speak, to get at essential human truths. I’m not sure Ms. Mandel really does that here. I was hopeful that because she chose a movie star as pivotal – not as a character, but rather as an arms-length plot device – that she would explore some elements of what fame is and what it means. She didn’t. She did suggest some things about human nature, namely that people are generally good and that descent into animal base selves is not inevitable.

But really, I’m straining here to find some overarching ideals that the book speaks to. In the end, it was just a good read. A very good read, because it’s all about the writing.

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