Friday, March 30, 2007

Running In the Family

After the god-like feat of completing Atlas Shrugged, I've opted for something a little lighter for my next read, both physically and philosophically speaking.

Michael Ondaatje's Running In the Family was thrust into my hands by a friend while we ransacked the racks at a charity book sale. "Have you read this?" she mumbled, half of her attention focused on me, the other half focused on scanning the rest of the titles in the shelf she was currently perusing. "You probably have, 'cause it's good."

I hadn't read it, and I never turn down a recommended book! Since I liked In the Skin of a Lion, and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid is on my must-read list, I figured that spending $2 on another of Ondaatje's books would be a sensible investment.

So far, it's paying off! This book is arranged as a memoir, with bits of story, poetry, photographs intermingling to paint an autobiographical tale where truth takes a backseat to beauty. I'm really enjoying it so far. I suppose I should attempt to articulate why: I think it has something to do with how Ondaatje represents history as memory--a not-to-scale map of stories that have been told and retold enough times that they become the significant elements of a family history. I like the idea that history lies in incidents; that incidents can have more impact than big-picture themes...

Atlas Shrugged

This book was recommended to me by a Kindergarten teacher! I suppose I should clarify that she doesn't read this sort of literature to her students; it might be a little bit over their heads.

Anyway, Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged is a major commitment, weighing it at 1069 pages in squint-sized print. The basic premise of the book is examining what would happen if the powerhouses of the world went on strike and refused to carry along the leeches and mooches any further. It plays out as a bit of a mystery novel, so, aside from spots where Rand's own philosophy (Objectivism) takes over and weighs things down, the plot moves along pretty quickly.

Some quotes-for-thought from the book:

p. 447 para 2:
"He was seeing the enormity of the smallness of the enemy who was destroying the world. ... If this is what has beaten us, he thought, the guilt is ours."

p. 461 para 4
"People with pleading eyes and desperate faces crowded into tens where evangelists cried in triumphant gloating that man was unable to cope with nature, that his science was a fraud, that his mind was a failure, that he was reaping punishment for the sin of pride, for the confidence in his own intellect--and that only faith in the power of mystic secrets could protect him from the fissure of a rail or from the blowout of the last tire on his last truck. Love was the key to the mystic secrets, they cried, love and selfless sacrifice to the needs of others."

I think that the portion in the last 1/10th of the book, where John Galt takes over the airwaves and preaches his philosophies for three hours, would make an interesting book club chat. But I'm not sure I would want to impose reading this entire book on somebody just to discuss that part....

Anyway, my biggest issue with Rand's theory--that nobody does anything completely honestly unless it also has a selfish motivation--is a bit off the mark. I also think her idea that nobody in society should benefit from a "free ride" off the others is a bit drastic. In Rand's world, children, the disabled, etc. are not factored in to the equation.....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold by C.S. Lewis.

"When the time comes to you at which you will be forced at last to utter the speech which has lain at the center of your soul for years, which you have, all that time, idiot-like, been saying over and over, you'll not talk about joy of words. I saw well why the gods do not speak to us openly, nor let us answer. Till that word can be dug out of us, why should they hear the babble that we think we mean? How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?"
(Part 2, Chapter 4, Paragraph 1)

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is my friend Lynne's favourite book. That--and its intriguing title--is what prompted me to read it!

With parallels to Jane Eyre and Huckleberry Finn, I was really impressed by the beauty and message of this book. I also learned as much about bees from reading it, as I did about spiders from reading Charlotte's Web!