J. Michael Straczynski is somebody who I've admired for a long time: for his superior talent at storytelling, for his refusal to let the shallow end of the brain pool screw those stories up, for his integrity, for giving his heart and soul to everything he writes.
And now I've read his autobiography over a less-than-24-hour period (I had to stop and sleep at one point because I didn't want to do JMS the disservice of reading this book with anything less than full attention) and WHAM!!! That admiration is increased by I-can't-even-calculate-how-many-times. It's a story both horrifying and grand and all the other descriptive words (even the third ones) in between and told in excellent style.
And that little matter of a 1 followed by 42 zeroes … Douglas Adams long ago gave us the answer to life, the universe, and everything. ;-)
What a sad, depressing, and eye-opening read. It’s interesting that the author calls this his ‘death-penalty’ book, but I’ll definitely agree with it also being a book about friendship and loyalty, as well as one about child abuse, alcoholism, and neglect. So much is also about poverty and as a result, the loss of hope. The two teens in the story, Luke and Toby, don’t have much to look forward to in their lives, or ways to cope, and this feels very desperate and is difficult at times to read. It paints a very grim portrait of impoverished middle America.
I commend the author on writing a book about two teen boys, which doesn’t happen often within the young adult genre. But it’s ultimately heartbreaking. I’m grateful to my Litsy Postal Book Club group for picking this, otherwise I may not have read this emotional YA novel.
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Back to Solitary Summer, and to anybody who thinks this is just fluffy garden talk, I'd heartily recommend to read the section on the disastrous intersection of poverty, prejudice and ignorance in the village, particularly insofar as it concerned the children.
"There is a great wall of ignorance and prejudice dividing us from the people on our place, and in every effort to help them we knock against it and cannot move it any more than if it were actual stone. Like the parson on the subject of morals, I can talk till I am hoarse on the subject of health, without at any time producing the faintest impression. When things are very bad the doctor is brought, directions are given, medicines made up, and his orders, unless they happen to be approved of, are simply not carried out. Orders to wash a patient and open windows are never obeyed, because the whole village would rise up if, later on, the illness ended in death, and accuse the relatives of murder. "
No wonder Elizabeth's heart broke every time she went there -- especially knowing that any and all attempts at providing real help would be rejected out of deeply inbred prejudice, and being left with this conclusion:
"At least I had discovered Lotte and could help her a little, I thought, as I departed down the garden path between the rows of scarlet-runners; but the help that takes the form of jelly and iced drinks is not of a lasting nature, and I have but little sympathy with a benevolence that finds its highest expression in gifts of the kind. There have been women within my experience who went down into the grave accompanied by special pastoral encomiums, and whose claims to lady- bountifulness, on closer inquiry, rested solely on a foundation of jelly. Yet nothing in the world is easier than ordering jelly to be sent to the sick, except refraining from ordering it. What more, however, could I do for Lotte than this? I could not take her up in my arms and run away with her and nurse her back to health, for she would probably object to such a course as strongly as her mother; and later on, when she gets well again, she will go back to school, and grow coarse and bouncing and leathery like the others, affording the parson, in three or four years' time, a fresh occasion for grief over deadly sin."