When I received this book from the publisher*, I immediately rejected it out of hand as I usually steer clear of books that have any sort of religious connotation. I am not a religious person and what spirituality I have is more theoretical than anything else, but primarily I have a to each their own mindset.
This being said, I set the book on my to-be-read soon pile and the longer it sat there the more I wondered if I should read it. Why shouldn’t I read something that makes me a little uncomfortable? Why shouldn’t I read something that could, potentially have a positive, affect my personal relationships? And I didn’t really have an answer to either of those questions, so when I was looking for a book to read before heading out one afternoon I grabbed this and started reading it.
I’m finally starting to make a “dent” in my to-be-read shelves! YAY! On the downside, due to work events and the seasonal time change affecting me more than usual this book took two weeks to read, which is sad because it was so beautifully written.
I’m going to start by saying take my review with a grain of salt because this is a book about books and writing and conservation so of course I loved it. It also coincided with our visit to the 39th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair (a blog post about it on The New Antiquarian as the BIABF’s website appears to be down), which was great because we saw many religious texts which reminded me that I needed to finish reading this wonderful book! I’ll talk more about the fair later in a special Culture Corner post, hopefully, or at the very least in my November recap in early December.
My friend Carlie (Hi Carlie!), recommended this book way back when I started this blog not long after she recommended The Hunger Games and I picked up a copy back in December 2012. I don’t know why it took so long for me to get around to it, but it did. I should’ve known better based on how much I enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy andThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, another of her discoveries.
This book really should be mentioned in the same breath of books like The Color Purple and Bastard Out of Carolina. Maybe it is and I’m not aware of it, but if it isn’t I’m not sure why. It was published in 1985 right in between the Color and Carolina and it’s just as harrowing, real and disturbing as either of those. (It’s also compared to Faulkner, but I can’t speak to that as I’ve never read him.)
This is one of those books that has so much umph in the cultural milieu that it’s a wonder I’ve never read it before. I squeezed it in just in time this month to get a podcast recorded to be released at the end of the month. If you’re in the Boston area and you want to record one let me know! :-D But, more importantly than podcasting, this book counts as the 43 book of my Classics Club journey. (See, I told you I was still chipping away). I’m so far off target it’s not even funny, but I’m glad that I’m still occasionally reading from my list.
Let’s start with the big to-do about this novel. Maybe it’s not that much of a to-do, but it felt like one. I still don’t know how much of this novel to believe is fiction. It’s very clearly labeled as fiction and yet it is very clearly Plath’s own personal story. I mean her mom wrote a letter to the American publishers saying these are real people and real stories thinly veiled as characters! There is one point where I couldn’t help but laugh because Plath writes Esther, the main character, writing a novel about a character doing the same thing. HOW META CAN YOU GET?! This is the same story being told by three different people all of whom are telling/experiencing the same story.
As a part of every episode of Come Read with Me, I ask my friends to recommend a book. I do this because I know it will take me out of my comfort zone, but I also do it because it helps me get to know them better. Mike from Episode 5 where we discussed the first half of the Hyperion Cantos recommended this and WOW.
I have a feeling this is going to be one of those books that continues to grow on me the further I get away from it. I only rated it “4 out of 5” on Goodreads, but I’m already wondering if as the ideas presented in the book sink in if I will adjust that even higher. I looked into the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship Award (aka read the Wikipedia link) and found it interesting, but I’m not sure if it does what the award wanted. Ishmael is incredibly creative and I think does most of what the award wanted, but I guess it’s a good thing I wasn’t on the committee.
In a further attempt to get a few more posts up while I’m on vacation I went to my TBR shelf and found I had two more Paulo Coelho novels yet to go so I grabbed them to read. They’re always easily written, well translated and fascinatingly beautiful and The Witch of Portobello (Amazon Affiliates link), was no exception. I’m actually not sure when I picked up this book as I can’t find a photo of it, so I’m going to assume it was sometime in 2011 right after I read The Alchemist.
Every time I read a book by Coelho, I find myself wondering about and searching for my spirituality. Whether he is talking about the Mother or organized religion (usually not), Coelho has a way of writing incredibly complex ideas and intricate narratives that is so simple and beautiful that it’s almost breath-taking. I do wonder if it is even more beautiful in his native Portuguese, how can it be so incredibly beautiful translated into English and not be beyond beautiful originally. So that being said, some credit must, obviously, be given to Margaret Jull Costa who has translated other works by Coelho including Veronika Decides to Die and Eleven Minutes (my next read) and many works by José Saramago including Seeing.
In the longest episode yet I talk with one of my roommates, Mike, about two VERY long books Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, the first two novels of the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons.
I’m sad I had to cut out as much as I did (including a great aside about Doctor Who), but I think you’ll enjoy this one. We talk about science fiction and religion, technology and the fear of Artificial intelligence and even delve briefly into religion and philosophy, and what all of these mean for the future of society. (We’re so smart!)
I did use this episode as a weird transition episode. You’ll start to see hints of what I’m working into the next episode from my “podcast class,” but because this was recorded well before I did that class there are no actual transitions, I hadn’t recorded actual transitions yet, just the page turning sounds.
The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
I was able to do a lot more editing wise so hopefully the sound quality is a bit better than usual! I’m also mulling over a few more changes, like starting with the guest reading as the intro and then going into the discussion, but I’m not sure.