Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Reading While on Vacation

Before I left for vacation, I threw up my hands and put away War and Peace, indefinitely.  I barely finished Confessions the day before we had planned to leave for Texas; truly, there was no time for serious reading, writing, or even exploring other blogs.  I felt so lost.  (Ok, I am exaggerating.  It actually felt good to admit that I had no time, and that I needed to put those longings aside.  There were no expectations.)

But I took two books with me, in the event of an opportunity.  And off to El Paso, Texas; we left at 2 AM.

Starting out at 2 AM

Crossing into Arizona

Oh, look! An opportunity! We are only fixed in the car for thirteen hours.  Hence, I pulled out Alone Yet Not Alone by Tracy Leininger Craven, a true story about a German immigrant family living in Pennsylvania during the French and Indian War in 1755.  Indians, who are assisting the French and fighting the British, abduct two sisters.  The girls must rely on courage and their faith to persevere to the end.  The author is a descendant of one of the sisters in the story.

It was an encouraging, pleasing read, written for an adolescent audience.  I was going to read it to my children, but...

So much fun
Anyway, I easily finished reading that before we got to Texas.

This is what a thirteen-hour drive looks like from Southern California to El Paso, Texas. Barren desert.

Crossing into New Mexico

Nothing to look at

Occasionally, something different

Entering Texas
FYI: You can see Ju├írez, Mexico, across the Rio Grande, from El Paso, Texas, USA.  A totally different world.

Juarez, Mexico
Meanwhile, the majority of my vacation was poolside, where I was usually a life guard.  (I'm not really a lifeguard.)  Reading while life guarding is not efficient reading, but that is why The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, was the second book I brought with me.

My son read this series when it first came out in 2008, and I wish I had remembered everything he told me about it as he was reading through it.  He told me I would enjoy it because he knew I liked dystopian-style stories. But as years went by, he decided that: he did not like Suzanne Collins or her reasons for writing the series; that her writing ability is horrible; and that she does not know how to end a story.

Now that I have finally read the first book in the series for myself, I can agree that her writing is dumbed down - she's not George Orwell!  BUT I justified it by saying that she is writing as a sixteen-year old protagonist.  To which my son added, "Yeah, Suzanne Collins thinks she is a sixteen-year old."  (By the way, I cannot use the excuse that she was writing to a YA audience because that is no reason to dumb down one's writing ability.)

So I did a little research on her purpose for writing the series, and I learned that she remembered what it was like watching the Vietnam War on TV as a young girl (her father was a soldier in Vietnam) and later watching the Iraq War on TV.  She thought about how life went on while war took place, and wondered if it was just entertainment to the world watching it on TV.  She also took ideas from reality TV, probably MTV's Real World or Road Rules, in which young people competed for prizes by doing these outrageous tasks, while the rest of us watched it on TV for entertainment.

Furthermore, Collins took into consideration how often governments use food to control the masses. Keep them hungry or starving, and people will do anything you want them to in hope of getting a little food. Also, she borrows ideas from the Ancients, such as the story of the Minotaur and Theseus and the gladiators of Rome.

Having read the book, I liked The Hunger Games, and I will eventually read Catching Fire.  I agree that dystopian-themed books are not easy to get into because they are perceived to be warped and wicked and horrible; however, with such heavy, difficult ideas, come strong, urgent messages.  

In The Hunger Games, it is the government, the Capitol, that keeps its people enslaved in districts and controls them with food, entertainment, and privileges - the Games being one of the privileges.  The rest of the people in the Capitol are entertained at the expense of the enslaved districts.  I do not know if Suzanne Collins intended this to be another point, but I see a lot of similarities to socialism growing in America: an over-reaching, powerful government suppressing its people, who willingly go into slavery, so long as they believe all of their needs are being met by the government.  Hey! Rome did it, and history often does repeat itself.

Well, that was my reading experience.  So here we are returning home to California, where they have border patrol for illegal fruit and vegetation, which is very important!  

Entering California 
And this is how hot it was:

It's hot!
We have one more trip left - twice as long, to Missouri.  Until then, I have several weeks of more serious reading.  Time to dust off War and Peace again.


Jillian said...

I hope you had a good time, Ruth!

Unknown said...

Sounds like a fun vacation! I never get that much reading time in on vacation. (Reading in the car makes me carsick, unfortunately.) I liked The Hunger Games, and at the time I read it (as a teenager), I didn't think it seemed dumbed down, but I do remember that the writing style was often choppy and distracting. I certainly don't consider Collins the best writer of our time, but I enjoyed the book and it was pretty thought-provoking. Which is saying a lot since I don't usually like dystopian or YA.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Marianne. Yes, it was a great time visiting with family.

Ruth said...

I did not think I would get any reading done either, but that is why I chose easy books to read.

And I guess I could have used a better description regarding my opinion about Collins' writing: it was written as if it were thought or spoken; therefore, it is often in incomplete sentences. But it works because the main character is 16 and telling us about her gruesome life, as if she is writing it in her journal to herself. It did not have to be written at a difficult comprehension level. So that is what I meant by dumbed-down, but that may have been harsh.

Anonymous said...

Hope you enjoyed your vacation! I also went on vacation recently and took a break from War and Peace, but I started reading the book again this week. Luckily, I remembered most of what had happened.

Hamlette (Rachel) said...

I've been thinking about reading both of those books. And after reading your post... I'm still thinking about it :-) I'd like to see the movie version of "Alone Yet Not Alone" too.

Ruth said...

We definitely want to see the movie version, too.

Ruth said...

Yeah, I sort of forgot what happened last in W&P. It's really been a long time.