9 January 2011

Travelling with Heinlein

Audio books are great for long car journeys. A really exciting story makes a seven and a half hour car trip.

This time we went with plenty of audio books. We had a Morris Gleitzman book called once. Morris Gleitzman is generally funny but with warmth that makes it possible to deal with great themes in light way. Once, however, turned out to be a tear jerker, especially for grown ups who could see pretty early where this story was going, and even supposing it had a happy ending there would have to be some trauma along the way.

Once turned out to be the story of a Jewish boy in Poland during WWII. He is in a Catholic orphanage and waiting for his bookseller parents to find out what has happened to the books in Europe. He is good at making up stories, but while they help him and help others survive mentally, they also get in his way.

Despite the grimness of the story, the kids, Masters 11 and 14, chose to keep listening to it right to the end and seemed to prefer it to anything else we had.

Another of the books we had was Robert Heinlein's Citizen of the Galaxy. I remember Heinlein's junveniles as being the better of his books, and although I couldn't recall the story in Citizen of the Galaxy I had a vague impression of adventures and obstacles overcome and a happy ending.

This time, it seemed the young hero did not have to endure a series of hardships so much as a series of tedious lectures before winning out. This itself lead to some discussion about writing and the nature of story telling and whether tastes have changed over the decades since the book was first published in 1957. Maybe back then the descriptions of how one of his created societies might actually work, or the lectures on how to live, were mindblowing. Maybe back then those descriptions offered a glimpse into something new and different, another way to think about things. Nowadays they just get in the way of the story.

Have a great New Year!

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