Sheri S Tepper

Rowland, Jennifer A B jennifer.rowland at ic.ac.uk
Fri Jul 7 07:43:56 EDT 2000


 Aargh! I hadn't known who'd written The True Game or Jinian books (and
wouldn't have thought it was Tepper, as I don't like many of her more recent
books except Gate to Women's Country) so as soon as I saw these emails I
raced off to abebooks and bibliofind to try and get them- and they have
them, but either a) too expensive, b) in America and only accept US cheques
or c) (abebooks) in America, accept credit cards but I got a message saying
the server was no longer secure. Help! Are there any UK-based secondhand
book finders? 
I blame all of you for this frustration- I could easily have carried on
happily ignorant of these but now I have to have them. I thought I was just
going to join a list about one author but my mind is being expanded, it's
not fair I tell you.
Jennifer

-----Original Message-----
From: Mary Ann Dimand
To: dwj at suberic.net
Sent: 7/7/00 2:37 AM
Subject: Sheri S Tepper

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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