Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Sunday, May 07, 2006

What I'm Reading These Days

Aside from the usual miscellany of scriptures, various language books, blogs and law stuff, I just finished Alan Paton's Cry, the Beloved Country, rescued from the pile of books my mother was going to throw away. Hey, de-junking is perfectly respectable, but throwing out books just crosses a line.

Anyway, if you've never read it, it's basically the South African version of The Grapes of Wrath. In fact, it owes quite a bit, stylistically, to the novel, and apparently, Paton had just finished reading Grapes before staring this one.

The book is at once heart-breaking (probably more so than Grapes) and full of hope and reconciliation (probably more so than Grapes). It mixes in themes of racism, politics, and above all a sense that God is present in even the darkest times (certainly more so than Grapes, where a heretic preacher stands as a Christ figure, dying so that, uh, labor unions can come into existence? Sure).

It's easy enough to know what will happen at the end, but rather than hurting the suspense (it's not really intended as a suspense novel), this foreknowledge contributes to a feeling of dread and pity, in the fashion of a Greek tragedy. But equally predictable is the reconciliation, and at the end, we see the sick land starts to heal, with a promise of greater things to come if the people will only work for it.

I highly recommend this book, and it is now on my short list of books to read a second time.