Sheri S Tepper

Mary Ann Dimand amaebi at iwon.com
Thu Jul 6 21:37:33 EDT 2000


Chris's encomium of Sheri Tepper's Singer from the Sea moved Erica to write:

> The best stuff she's ever written is the Jinian Trilogy.

I enjoy that trilogy, though my favourite Tepper is Raising the Stones. One
interesting thing about the Jinian trilogy is that it builds on a previous
trilogy about a young man named Peter, who is also present and important in
this trilogy. Interestingly, a number of event are told through Peter's eyes
in his trilogy and through Jinian in hers. (There is a yet earlier trilogy
about Peter's mother Mavin-- the Mavin trilogy Erica mentioned.) The
trilogies focusing on Mavin and Peter are (to my mind) more standard fantasy
than the Jinian books. Characters in the Mavin books do not resonate for me
as "real fictional persons"-- as, say, Cat Chant or Polly or Zillah do. The
Peter books show some interesting development, including some rollicking
commentary on academe, but they strike me as being fundamentally
bildungsromans of the Young Hero. (Of course, all three trilogies can be
read that way. I just don't. :D )

> Before the Jinian Trilogy there were a few small gems (The
> Marianne Trilogy and a bit of the Mavin Trilogy)...

I'm not so crazy about the Marianne trilogy. The first two novels seem to me
to be pretty firmly planted in the recovery (from childhood/adolescent
trauma) paradigm, which isn't especially attractive to me. And I have more
problems with the representation of males in those novels than I do in
Tepper's later novels, by and large.

> ...but afterward she really started on an anti-man/anti-
> overpopulation kick (you can see a little in Jinian, more in
> Mavin).

Tepper is always a feminist author. To my mind, that doesn't make her
anti-male, but views on this of course differ considerably. I do find the
biological determinism often embodied in her novels (notably Gate to Women's
Country) ntipathetic, but that's life. I would say that she is more of a
feminist environmentalist than someone on an over-population kick.

She tends to be an author quite interested in (her) morality, through out
her work. In fact, the first three novels of hers that I read were Gate,
Beauty, and Grass, and I didn't know she was ever funny. This was a pleasant
surprise-- it turns out that she very often is.

> Of her later stuff, I'd recommend Raising the Stones and Gate
> to Women's Country. The rest I'd skip.

And I wouldn't, of course. :D  Gate to Women's Country embodies a terrific
tour de force in the way of a pseudoclassical play about the aftermath of
the Trojan war, by the way.

Tepper's an interesting author who seems to me a tad like Jones in that she
has (according to me) maintained an astonishingly high quality while
publishing prolifically. I think her work shows more writerly development
than Jones's-- that is, I think that Jones was a more finished writer when
she published Changeover (though I didn't care for it) and Cart and Cwidder
than Tepper was earlier in her career. I think Tepper's voice has changed a
lot.

Erica mentioned Tepper as writing a fable in Gate to Women's Country.
Something that I feel I didn't recognize in Tepper's writing until quite
recently (six years after first reading a Tepper novel) is that she is
pretty much writing fables all the time. Some of her novels have more of a
"realistic" feel, and some (for example, The Family Tree), less. I found the
fairy tale quality of The Family Tree kind of off-putting at first, though I
have always liked fairy tales-- it was just a matter of my expectations
getting in the way of my reading. But I think one can read all her work as
fables. If one wants to. :)

Mary Ann


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