Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dark of a Thousand Nights

Alas, Babylon: Pat Frank: When I was a kid, I went through this apocalyptic fiction phase -- I read every novel like that I could get my hands on. Shockingly, I never read a classic of the genre, Alas, Babylon. I remember trying to read it, but I never got past the first page. Les's positive review of it encouraged me to try reading it once again. It's an amazing read. Despite the fact that America is destroyed by nuclear bombs, Frank's novel is a hopeful one. His characters come together to take care of each other and to rebuild their world. The main character, Randy Bragg, who before The Day, seemed pretty much aimless, steps up to the plate and shows that he is strong and becomes a leader in his small town of Fort Repose, FL. Some of the stereotypes of women and blacks bothered me, but only for a minute -- the novel was written in 1959 after all. Helen, for instance, although a completely capable woman in all other respects, is one of those women who needs a man. Randy's wife, Lib, hesitates to suggest something because she feels that what she's thinking about should be first brought up by a man. Helen's daughter, Peyton, longs to be a hero like her brother but is told that the things she wants to help with are better left to boys and men. Despite the stereotypes, you can feel all the women beginning to chafe against these arbitrary rules. In some ways too, in its treatment of African Americans, Frank's novel and his character are just a little ahead of the times. Randy feels that race shouldn't matter -- this is vividly pointed out when after The Day, Randy is in a park staring at two water fountains trying to remember why there are two separate ones like that. The characters eventually realize that they are all interdependent on one another and race becomes unimportant. Randy's niece and nephew, who've come to Florida from Omaha, have grown up expecting that their schools will be integrated. In spite of that, Randy's friend, Malachi, whom he's known his entire life, calls him, "Mr. Randy." All that said, Alas, Babylon, is a wonderful read with characters you can relate to and care about.

Friday Shuffle on Saturday

  1. Come Pick Me Up: Ryan Adams from Heartbreaker
  2. I Must Be High: Wilco from A.M.
  3. What a Wonderful Man: My Morning Jacket from Z
  4. Off Broadway: Ryan Adams from Easy Tiger
  5. Pot Kettle Black: Wilco from Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
  6. Another Rainy Day: Corinne Bailey Rae from Corinne Bailey Rae
  7. Somebody's Baby: Jackson Browne from Solo Acoustic, Vol. 2
  8. Old Times Sake: Shelby Lynne from Suit Yourself
  9. All We Can Really Do: Melissa Etheridge from The Awakening
  10. White Rabbit: Patti Smith from Twelve


Les said...

Glad you wound up enjoying this! I've sold a few copies at work since reading it. I agree about the stereotypes, but yah, it was written almost 50 years ago!

Great Friday Shuffle. I've just added Melissa Etheridge's album to my Amazon wishlist. Thanks!

Katya said...

Les: Now I'm reading A Canticle for Leibowitz which I'd also never read before. I like the ME album.

Les said...

I'm planning to read A Canticle for Leibowitz in the next month or two. Looking forward to your review!

Katya said...

I just got a new copy of it and the introduction is by Mary Doria Russell.