The second novel, Beauty by Sheri Tepper, begins with a more conventional approach to fairy tales. The novel is told through the diary entries of the real Sleeping Beauty. It begins in the 1300s but takes us to current day--well the 1990s--and into the dismal future. This novel is a more traditional fairy tale in that magic exists (although it is dying in the future) and we enter the world of fairies. Beauty, in her romps through time and enchantment, tackles issues of environmental genocide, male brutality, women's rights, and aging. Much of the story comes down to a battle of good and evil--we get glimpses of both heaven and hell--and the differences and similarities between magic and religion. Tepper tells us before the novel begins that Beauty is a metaphor for the earth and the novel describes our current destructive path--the killing of beauty--while leaving open the hope of change and resurrection.
I've now read three novels of Tepper and I really enjoy her work. As I may have mentioned before, she is not a subtle writer. She tackles big issues and her interests frequently overlap with my own. She also explores interesting ideas and questions through quirky plots. I enjoy a quirky plot. However I generally prefer a softer touch. Take for example the following passage:
We have been thwarted at every turn by god. Not the real God. A false one which has been set up by man to expedite his destruction of the earth. He is the gobble-god who bids fair to swallow everything in the name of a totally selfish humanity. His ten commandments are me first (let me live as I please), humans first (let all other things die for my benefit), sperm first (no birth control), birth first (no abortions), males first (no women's rights), my culture/tribe/language/religion first (separatism/terrorism), my race first (no human rights), my politics first (lousy liberals/rotten reactionaries), my country first (wave the flag, the flag, the flag), and, above all, profit first.Lack of subtlety aside, I enjoy her novels and I find the woman to be very interesting. Tepper, who turned eighty earlier this week, is a prolific author. She has published poetry, sci fi and fantasy as well as written horror and mysteries under pseudonyms. Her latest novel, The Margarets, came out in 2007 and it looks like she has another book coming out in 2011. Tepper married and divorced young and then raised two children as a single parent in the 1950s--when that just was not done. She remarried in the 1960s but continued to work for a variety of non-profits including a 24 year stint with Rocky Mountain Planned Parenthood, where she eventually became the executive director. She has a history of advocacy--or as she phrased it "a person who wagged her finger under people's chins and said 'Now see here!'" She became a full-time author in the 1980s and currently operates a guest ranch in New Mexico. She's my kind of woman.