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the-alchemistFor book club this month we read The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo. An interesting read, it examined the core unity of the earth and all things upon it and the ability to achieve one’s greatest potential. While I was disappointed in the ending (which I thought a little too material for the metaphysical vein of the novel), one curiosity came to my mind while at book club tonight and that seems to be worth keeping me up late. It all boils down to a name… …or a lack thereof. Reading the book, I began to wonder if the main character, who the author always refers to as “the boy” even had a name. It would have been a fascinating study if he did not. But, I was wrong. He has a name. Apparently my close reading rusted over more than I thought because the book begins thus, “The boy’s name was Santiago.” This caught my attention. I’ve yet to discern if there is anything special in the name itself being Santiago (which means Saint James in case you were curious…), but the concise statement of the name as such immediately reminded me of another novel, as well it should. If it hadn’t, I would have worried about myself. There are a few books whose first lines are forever memorable. One knows that when they hear about single men of good fortune being in want of a wife that we are referring to Pride and Prejudice. The first line of Moby Dick perhaps stands even more memorable in the pantheon of remembered phrases, and this was the line brought into my memory tonight. “Call Me Ishmael.” Authors rarely do anything on accident, and even when they do, they cannot remove the consequences of that accident. However, I think it no accident that Coehlo echos the structure of the line penned by one of the cannonical English authors. Such a similarity at the inception of the novel begs for the entire book to be read compared to, or perhaps in opposition to, Moby Dick. The Alchemist does not fail in this respect. Both stories are strikingly similar in the desire to achieve something greater than ourselves, to fulfill a destiny the characters believe is uniquely theirs to fulfill and the lengths they will go to achieve it. Most know Ahab’s story: a whale obsession that ultimately leads in the obsessed’s death while the obsession itself goes unfulfilled. Santiago’s is similar. While it may not be an obsession to an Ahab-ian (okay, I just created that word…but it really suits) extent, the idea pervades that achieving this ultimate goal is the only key to happiness. Yet, Santiago and Ahab are so very different. Santiago’s quest enlivens him and creates in him a being he never dreamed he was capable of becoming. Ahab’s destroys not only him, but many around him as his purpose becomes an addictive drug. So similar yet so very different, too interesting to be a coincidence. I once had a professor who loved stomping to the floor and yelling questions to dead authors. It sounds so – odd – in print, but it was actually pretty funny. I will probably never speak to Coehlo and be able to ascertain if the parallels to Moby Dick stem simply from the influence of a great work of fiction or were completely intentional. But, then I’m used to that as most authors I’ve studied in the past are dead. And, perhaps that is why I love literature so much for I can take parallels I see and run with them and as long as I make a good argument I’m not really wrong. In the study of literature there is very little that is “right” or “wrong”. It’s fabulous that way. So, Santiago and Ahab. Both pilgrims on their own journeys to fulfillment. I think I was wrong before when I said that the ending was too material for such a metaphysical book. When seen in opposition to Moby Dick, The Alchemist isn’t about the end result at all. It’s about the journey and what you allow the journey to make you. Sigh. I think I now need to go read a book about a whale…

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So true…

zits-and-literature

Book Review: Inkheart

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

inkheartAfter hearing various positive reviews I had personally received about the book, I have to say that the book did not live up to expectations.  Out of the 530 pages, it took a good 200 to really get into the story.  And,while the prose was well written, indeed, even beautiful in parts, the plot dragged and lacked movement.  The ending was unsatisfactory.  I did however enjoy the various literary references woven throughout the text, proving the education of the author.  How many authors reference The Mabinogion?   She is the first in my experience.

I can see the draw of the book and why many have enjoyed it.  As I stated previously, the prose was lovely and for bibliophiles like myself, there was ample connection to the book-loving characters.   And, it is not a difficult read.  In fact, the prose is far simpler than the darkness of the villain.   However, for me, I will not be reading the rest of the series and not recommending this book to others.

Parsifal’s Page

Fantastic!

Fantastic!

Confession:

After the kids were in bed last night, while Eagle was sleeping & John was at a meeting, I didn’t clean the front room.  I didn’t sweep the floor.  I didn’t finish clearing the table… I read another book from Gerald Morris.  All 230 pages in 2 and a half hours. 

It was great!  Man, I love his characters.  Love, love, love, love them.  They seem so real – heroic, but genuine.  Like you might bump into them opening the door for you at church, or graciously letting you onto the freeway.  Well, let’s hope you don’t bump into them then.

Anyway, this one was a bit more funny than I remember the other ones being… but it might just have been my mood last night.  There’s also a little more in the way of romance, sort of.  It’s not the *main* character’s romance, but a lot of secondary characters’.  Parsifal’s page made a great protaganist. 

I’d write more, but the kids are up and, well, that never works out for long posts.  Suffice it to say, I’ve got another book of his under my belt and I still haven’t found a book by Morris that I don’t highly recommend.

Another great book

Another great book

Here ’tis!  Another great book recommendation.

I offer this to you with an apology.  Several apologies, actually.

One, I’m sorry I’m not a more critical reader.  If I become enchanted with a story, I will overlook many weaknesses.  A great weakness of this one is that its heroine, Lynet, is so very much like the heroine of the first book I read of Morris’s – The Lioness and Her Knight.

Two, I’m sorry I don’t remember a great many details as I read from one of these charming books to another.  Like, for example… the fact that Lynet is in fact the mother of The Lioness.  Hence, they are so much alike.  Whoops!  What I thought was a huge oversight was actually some clever, intentional, and masterful writing.

Perhaps if I had read these in the correct order I’d put pieces like that together a bit better.  Oh well.  It’s great fun to meet characters in one book, only to see them again briefly in another — and enjoyable, too, that each book stands alone.

My third apology is that I’m going to spoil here a great quote from this book.  When you come upon it, I will have stolen all its freshness like all those commercials that ruin the best parts of the movies they advertise.  Ready?

“It was not the proposal that Lynet had dreamed of someday receiving, but some dreams are not as important as others.”

I think I may tattoo this on the back of my hand.   Well, no, I’d see it there too often.  Embroidered, then, and hung on my wall?  Maybe.  Lest this quote be misleading, there actually is not a great deal of romance in this book.  None at all compared to some popular Young Adult novels I had the misfortune of reading recently (cough, cough, Twilight, cough).  For the most part, it’s [wait – I just had a great idea.  Zen, you should write a review of the Meyers’ saga – and I could too.  Wouldn’t it be hilariously aggravating to compare them?!]

What was I saying?  Oh yes, for the most part this is another medieval adventure book like the others I read.  Yes, there are romantic threads in it, but pretty much only at the end – a lot like his others.  I picture Morris throwing the relationships in at the end to humor the females in his audience… except that nothing gets “thrown in” – that would imply thoughtlessness, which is not a characteristic of his writing. 

Anyway.  I think, perhaps, that Lynet’s insight there in the quote above will resonate with anyone who has  suffered a great disappointment in the process of gaining something greater.  Suffice it to say, it struck a cord with me.  

And once again, I shall highly recommend a wonderful book by Gerald Morris.

By Gerald Morris

Reading. 

The word brings a smile to my face.  I love it so.  Recently (about 5 minutes ago) I finished reading a book by Gerald Morris, “The Paige, His Knight, and His Lady.”  I’ve read another of his on our roadtrip to Cali (“The Lioness and Her Knight”) – and thoroughly enjoy his writing.  In my old age, I’ve become a pickier reader than I used to.  No longer am I okay with a good plot OR good writing style.  Now I want both.   Require both. 

Usually, anyway.

But now, back to my book review.   I cherish books that can make me laugh out loud – similar to the way that I adore blogs that do likewise.  (Thank you Wendy!)  (Moment of silence –a long, long moment—for Mary’s blog.)  No, this book wasn’t comedic.  Not even close.  It’s a medieval adventure book.  Perhaps a teensy bit predictable, but I don’t mind that sort of thing.  J  However, it did make me laugh on one of the very last pages, which is a great time for a book to make you laugh.  It sticks with you that way, and is especially nice when the ending leaves you completely satisfied.

So here I am – chuckling underneath a beautiful feeling of having just read a good book.  I’m not quite going to put this on the same caliber as Alexander Lloyd’s Prydain Chronicles, or the Chronicles of Narnia, or even Lord of the Rings,

but ‘tis a very enjoyable, fairly quick read, for people who enjoy knights & ladies, magic & adventures…

Plus, nice chortle near the very end.

One good book -ah, ah, ah
One good book -ah, ah, ah

The Christmas Sweater

5:42am.

Just finished this book.

Why?  Because leaving it half finished when I went to bed at 10 last night just didn’t settle well.  When my baby woke me for his 4am feeding, I put him back in his own bed and came out here to pick it back up in the quiet of a sleeping house.

Because it’s my mom’s and she probably wants it back before we leave for San Diego this evening.

Most importantly, because I was not finished with the journey begun yesterday during our Thanksgiving celebration.

I wonder how my mom feels having raised such a bookworm.  Bad form, I know, getting stuck in a book while all the other women (and maybe even my husband?) are going about setting the Thanksgiving table (guilt, cringe) — but a nursing baby gives you a good excuse to be sitting there with nothing else to do.  

My Dad has this wonderful habit of acquiring the books I see new-in-stores and restrain myself from buying.  I love my dad.  I saw “The Christmas Sweater” by Glenn Beck @ Deseret Book a week ago, read the back, and thought, “Looks great!”

Turns out, I was right – and wrong at the same time.  This book is more than great, but I haven’t been able to find quite the right adjective.  For me, right at the moment in time I read it, it was perfect.  For you, it might not be.  It’s a story, like others out there I’m sure, about growing up.  About pain, love, sacrifice, and stubbornness.

Beck’s depiction of a 12-year-old boy’s perspective is appropriately aggrivating, and allows the reader to get in touch with their own immaturity.  Looking back at the book, I admire the author for being able to put his life’s greatest journey into a story like this.  When you go through great difficulties and come out learning equally great & profound lessons, you want to somehow communicate it to others.  You want to show them what you’ve learned so they can learn it too, so they don’t have to go through those same difficulties.

In this book, 278 little pages, I found myself lost in Eddie’s struggles, much as I get lost in mine.  I was frustrated with him and a part of him at the same time.  By the end, I found a new perspective and appreciation for those struggles – his and mine. 

I suspect most readers of this book have a similar experience, and I highly recommend it.