Several books involving game play of some sort were recommended to me recently. So I read them and now you, lucky reader, can benefit from my reviews. Knowledge is power: read wisely!
First, my teenager chose Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card, for our mother/daughter book club. I approached the book skeptically, because it’s science fiction and that is not my favorite genre. Many people love science fiction above all else, and some have told me that I only don’t like it because I’ve only read bad science fiction. No one could help but adore good science fiction. I recognize this as the dark local beer argument. Years ago, when my husband was my boyfriend, he tried to alter my conviction that beer tastes like weasel piss by introducing me to dark local good beer. It was a nice try, but to this day I can only drink beer if I’m already drunk, and I don’t get drunk. (Too dangerous—leads to drinking weasel piss.)
I’m not even completely sure what makes a book science fiction, but I know that if a book includes space battles, it is science fiction. And I hate space battles. I know, I know, everyone else thinks space battles are the coolest things ever. Not me. The mere suggestion of an impending space battle causes my eyelids to grow heavy. Ponderously lengthy descriptions of men (or in the case of Ender’s Game, boys) in fancy suits/ships dodging and weaving and using their brilliant tactical minds to outwit outlast outplay the enemy with plenty of explosions but our hero always prevails and…oh, I so don’t care.
So I planned to skim Ender’s Game, which was obviously going to be stuffed full of space battles. It was also a dumb story. But is it good science fiction? It’s incredibly popular—there’s a wait list for it at the library even though it was written decades ago. Does that mean it’s good? I’m afraid I’m not qualified to judge. I don’t like science fiction.
Then I read the Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, which also seems science fictiony, even though there are no space battles. There’s lots of fighting in a future world with technology we don’t have. Does that make it science fiction? Anyway, I found the series enjoyable, probably because it’s so explicitly political, and while space battles with alien bugs bore me silly, issues of government control, citizen rebellion, dichotomous, duplicitous human behavior, and good vs evil (and which is which) remind me of home. Having an ass-kicking, arrow-shooting female protagonist also piqued my interest. However, if there’s a fourth book in which Katniss shoots arrows at alien bugs in space, I’m not reading it.
Truth be told, I read the series so that I could read my 11-year-old’s book report about the series and know what she was talking about. So, mission accomplished.
Games People Play, by Eric Berne, came up on my friend OBL’s site, so I picked it up for fun. The book was written by a psychotherapist, decades ago, on transactional analysis. The basic premise: we all have, lurking inside of us, a child, and adult, and a parent. They all come out at different times and interact with other people’s inner children, adults, or parents. The author calls the patterns of interactions that occur “games,” and gives them cutesy names, like the “If It Weren’t for You” game and the “Look How Hard I’ve Tried” game.
They work like this. Spouse 1 says, “If it weren’t for you…(my life would be so much better because I could travel the world or something).” But, says Dr. Berne, Spouse 1 chose stick-in-the-mud Spouse 2 because Spouse 1 is really, secretly afraid to travel the world, and now she/he doesn’t have to face that fear. And, Spouse X, who has no real intention of improving the relationship, attends therapy but undermines it. Then Spouse X walks away with a clean conscience, declaring “Look how hard I’ve tried!”
What annoyed me about this book is that Berne presents the games as universal human behavior rather than artifacts of culture. What might ring true in one population at one point in time may be way off the mark for a different population, or even a sub-population, or at a different time. And as OBL noted, Berne held and incorporated all of the attitudes and prejudices of his time about the proper roles, behaviors, and feelings of women, which made me want to play the Throwing the Book across the Room game.
That concludes today’s edition of Games People Read. May you always be the winner.