Friday, July 14, 2017

Octavia E. Butler at the Huntington Library

I thought I would share my recent trip to the Huntington Library on this blog since it is a piece of bookish tourism which I normally avoid, not for lack of interest, but rather because I am lazy and traffic-phobic, particularly if I have to drive in or near Los Angeles.

However, when I heard about this exhibit featuring the too-soon departed Octavia Butler, I knew I could not let the opportunity pass me by, especially when it was is  a mere 45 minute drive away.   I only found out about science fiction writer Butler when she died in 2006 at the age of 58.  At that point in my life I was morphing from a semi-casual reader to the obsessed dedicated reader I am now.  I have since read four of her books and hope to read more…at the very least I hope to finish the Exogenesis trilogy this year.  
This is one of Butler's notes to her self
In the exhibit, there is a lot of emphasis on the pioneering aspects of Butler’s life as a black woman working in a field which typically published works only by white male authors.  But in my experience of her work, it is Butler’s ability to tell stories that sets her apart from her peers, more so than her gender or her race.  I readily admit that I have not read that much sci-fi or fantasy but what I admire about Butler is her uncompromising ability to challenge the reader into thinking about how the stories have larger implications and echoes in the here and now.  Butler does not pull her punches and she goes places where other writers fear to tread, in my estimation.
I was a little unsure what the exhibit would look like, but it was visually extremely well put together with handwritten notes,  journals, and correspondence  combined with photographs, book jackets etc .  I think my biggest take away was the amount of research Butler did for her books.  There were even some of her library slips for books she checked out for background information (the woman kept everything!).



If you have never read any Butler and are interested, I recommend starting with  Kindred , a standalone novel about a modern African-American woman who time travels to antebellum Maryland and which is considered by many to be her finest book.

I am so very glad I made the effort to go.  Of course, while we were there, we did take a stroll around the gardens (despite the triple digit heat) and looked at some of the permanent exhibits and had lunch.  If you are ever in Southern California, the Huntington is well worth a visit.

One of my favorite parts is the library in the original Huntington mansion.  I wouldn't want a room quite this formal. But the size!  


This is  a picture of the Lily Ponds, just one of the many gardens on the over 100 acre estate. 
And a picture from the desert garden, more conducive to Southern California weather.


  

2 comments:

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    1. Thanks for the comment Lark! Yes, the gardens are amazingly diverse and beautiful.

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