Last night’s meeting of The Artist’s Bookshelf got off to a stimulating start with a fascinating tour/discussion of the current Kiki Smith exhibit. Our discussion focused on five of Ms. Smith’s full-body sculptures, and covered topics ranging from bodily fluids to the iconography of the Roman Catholic Church.
Those of us who had already read this month’s book club selection (Fledgling by Octavia E. Butler), gasped in unison as we came upon the wall-gripping bronze entitled “ Lilith.” For, as we looked into those eerie, all-too-human eyes, we couldn’t help but be startled by the sculpture’s striking resemblance to the novel’s protagonist, a child-vampire named Shori.
Up on the ninth floor, our discussion of the novel began somberly as we paused briefly to eulogize author Octavia Butler, who passed away this past week. Because much of her work deals so directly with re-examining and re-defining human life, and all of its permutations, it seemed somewhat uncomfortable yet some how appropriate to dive right into to an investigation of her most recent, and, unfortunately, her final work.
Most of us reacted positively to the novel, and expressed agreement on its progressive social positionings against racism, sexism, and the inherent perils of hierarchical structures. There was some discord, however, in evaluating the literary merits of the prose itself, with a somewhat predictable breakdown between fans and non-fans of the science-fiction genre.
The narrative, and the parallel universe in which it transpires intrigued us all. Though we had varying reactions to the gamut of “ shock factors”, e.g., vampirism, pedophilia, and cannibalism, utilized by the author, we all agreed that its ultimate purpose was well worth the gore.
As one book club participant put it, “ The Walker continues to take me to places I otherwise wouldn’t go.”
And as Ms. Butler put it in a 2000 interview in the New York Times, “ We are naturally a hierarchical species. When I say these things in my novels, sure I make up the aliens and all of that, but I don’t make up the essential human character.”