Monday, July 18, 2011

the hunger games

you finish the last page, and then you put a book down and get back to the things you've been neglecting since you started reading.  that's usually how it goes when you finish a work of fiction.  if you weren't particularly impressed with the book, you're likely glad it's over.  if you hated the ending, you're angry for awhile.  if you loved it, you wish it didn't have to end, but life beckons anyway, and you can't keep staying up until 3am reading "one more chapter" when you have to get up for work the next morning.  in any case, you finish a book and take it back to the library or put it on the bookshelf and that's basically the end of it.

at least for me.  in fact, if you're anything like me, it's even worse than that.  i have an overactive forgetting gland,so give a me a month or two and i will likely completely forget the plot and the characters. it will almost be like i never read it.  this is one of my least favorite features of myself, but i deal with it.  usually. 

but this book has been a little different.  i mean, i just finished it, so it's a little hard to say, but i can already tell that the post-reading experience has been unusual.  i can't stop thinking about it.

i'm talking about suzanne collins' work of young adult fiction called "the hunger games."  yes, it's for young adults (what are trying to say, anyway?).  yes, it could have used a better copy editor.  yes, it read at times more like an action movie than a story with characters.  but (and this is a huge but), the concept of the novel and the page-turning way in which it was told more than makes up for whatever weaknesses it may have.  and it's that concept: a future world in which north america is now a country called pan em, broken into 13 (um, make that 12) districts that mostly work and live in poverty while the leaders sit in a city in the rocky mountains at a city called "the capital" in comfort, luxury, and abundance.  collins tells a story about the hunger games, an annual event held by the capital in which each district is forced to send two "tributes" - a boy and a girl - to the capital for a free-for-all fight to the death that is televised and watched.  it's sort of like big brother, mixed with survivor (on steroids) and the truman show.  and the effects are, at least for me, sobering and staying.

i'm not going to go any further into the plot or the ending here.  you can read it for yourself (in fact, i encourage you to).  but i do want to say that since i have closed the cover and put it back on the nightstand, i haven't been able to shake it's images from my mind.  as i'm flipping through the channels the other night, i come across a show on the food network pitting a group of 4 women against a group of 4 men in an eating contest, in which they had to be the first team to eat a huge piece of meat and several large side dishes.  the women won.  and everyone was entertained.  oh, and elsewhere, people kept dying of starvation. 

in a world where we continue to wrestle with the reality of the richer getting richer and the poorer getting poorer, not to mention the questions we're asking about the role of government and the issues of security vs. freedom, this book and the questions it allows the reader to ask about our current world and how different it is or isn't from pan em, should be required reading, i think. 

ironically, next year hollywood will make a movie version of it, and the richest 2 or 3 percent of the world will slap down millions of dollars to eat a jumbo popcorn and drink a soda the size of a loaf of bread to be entertained by it.  but i hope some will accept the challenge to think a little deeper about this story, and wrestle with the important questions that will help us avoid allowing this (or something like it) to become our story. 

1 comment:

cathyq said...

So ironic! I just finished reading this novel today too! Wow. I didn't even know you were reading it. I am also in the "just thinking about it and the social commentary that it is making" state of mind. In additon to what you already said, I am struck by the media manipulation of the truth and am seeing the corelation between their "fictional" futuristic? world and our own in light of what is being revealed in the news right now about the downright criminal practices of the reporters and others in the mega media monopoly of Rupert Murdoch! Wow. I loved and hated this book at the same time, and am therefore totally reading the next book in the series starting tonight!