Saturday, May 16, 2020

Station Eleven: Emily St. John Mandel

Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, set in a world a generation after apocalyptic flu erases modern society as we know it, is not a straightforward apocalypse novel. The wholesale removal of civilization as we know it is the conceit that allows her to explore what rebuilding looks like, and how we interact with ourselves and each other in a non-electrical life. 

The writing is graceful, elegant, and tender without triteness. The reader feels invited to walk with these characters, and I felt a tenderness toward them, exposed as flawed and human and beautiful. This is not a lecture on civilization and its discontents, but a gentle revelation of people in relationship with themselves and each other. 

The result is an elegant rendering of the interwoven nature of relationships and how small things, especially living our art, have such a meaningful and lasting impact on lives we glance through. What has power in the book are the acts of living in creativity -- the gift if the paperweight, the act of putting on a play or making music, the drawing of a story. These are the things that change others, even if we never see how they are changed, and they are the ways by which the characters know themselves. Art connects us to love and to each other. Through the pain, through the mistakes, through the inconveniences and difficulties of daily life.

Because survival is insufficient.