Monday, December 7, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Monday, October 19, 2009
Rating: 4 Piergoies
Review: People who know me are familiar with my... let's call it "acute interest"... in anything related to the afterlife and the paranormal. When I go to a new city my first stop is usually its main urban cemetary. When Boyfriend and I go to the Half-Price Bookstore on the weekend he heads to the Miltary History section and you will always find me in the Metaphysical aisle. I own more books than I care to admit written by psychics, mediums (yes, they are different), near-death experiences, ghost hunters and paranormal investigators. I own books about cemetaries, volumes of ghost stories and everything written by George Anderson. If you read enough of such things you start to see certain patterns and similarities emerge among what the various mediums and psychics teach and report. I call it "Alt-Spirituality", Boyfriend calls it "Blasphemy" and "One-Way Ticket to Hell." Regardless, most of these "Alt-Spirituralists" agree that (1) our souls are here on earth to learn and to further our spiritual evolution; (2) that we choose our lives in order to further whatever purpose we have in coming here; (3) that spiritual evolution happens faster on earth because of all the hardship and strife that must be endured; and (4) that our souls are eternal. Now whether you agree with them or not, this message is certainly comforting and it seems to make sense out of alot of the seemingly senseless pain and suffering that exists in the world.
After reading one of George Anderson's books last week (he is a very famous medium) I thought back to that 1998 Robin William's movie "What Dreams May Come." It won an academy award for uh ..... something and was celebrated at the time for its groundbreaking cinematography and beautiful presentation of heaven and the afterlife. I netflixed it last week and even though it is super-dramatic and emotionally overwrought to the point of ridiculousness it was successful in making me cry 6 separate times. I was running on the treadmill and crying like an idiot. It struck me how this movie is basically a full out color demonstration of the "Alt-Spiritual" teachings I described above. As desribed aptly by Cuba Gooding Jr:
So I decided to read the book. I read it in one sitting and it only took a couple of hours to complete. This book is not particularly well-written, I would not call it literature - but the story is fantasic.
Richard Matheson claims in the introduction that although the characters are fiction everything else is "true" - (based on research regarding death and the afterlife - obviously you can take that for what it is worth although he includes a bibliography at the end). The story is about a man named Chris who dies in a car accident and discovers that his soul is indeed immortal. He endures much hardship at first as his soul is not able to leave earth's plane of existence due to the suffering of his wife. Eventually, he does find heaven though (called "Summerland") and there he learns that a person's existence in the afterlife is completely self-imposed and created by the efforts of the individual mind (your dreams). As such, while there may be no hell in the conventional sense there surely is a space of terror and dispair in the afterlife for those who have done wrong and messed up the purpose of their life. Indeed, when Chris's wife committs suicide Chris literally leaves heaven and travels through hell to find her. Chris's wife is sent to a hell of confusion, loneliness and emotional/mental torment of her own making for the 24 years that she had remaining in her natural life which her suicide deprived her of living. Basically, she has to work out the same exact issues she would have had to deal with on earth, only under much worse circumstances. The lesson being of course, that suicide it not the escape some people hope for. You can not avoid learning the lessons you must for your soul to evolve.The story is certainly romantic although I found Chris's wife to be co-dependant and annoying so I didn't really care much for their romance. I was kind of rooting for Chris not to find his wife because, frankly, I think these codependant people need some time apart and she definitely deserves/needs to deal with the consequences of actions.
Although I really didn't care for the characters all that much the graphic and complete description of the "Alt-Spirituality" conception of the afterlife in context was wonderful. Additionally, the ending of the book was much better than that of the movie. Obviously, the movie wanted the emotionally gratifying ending, but the book's ending was much more true to the spiritual philosophy of the book.
Reading this book may cause someone to look at the purpose of life and death in a different way. You may not believe it but there is always value in listening to different perspectives. At its core this is a very hopeful story. I think anyone who has experienced a loss and death in their lives would be comforted very much by this book.
Thursday, October 8, 2009
There are three separate stories that are intertwined. I’m using the word "intertwined" here solely because it’s prettier than "mashed", "jammed", or "forced". The ideas floating around in these stories would have been great if given the proper attention. For example, the theme of art becoming reality, and life transforming into art, could have been beautiful and interesting. In fact, Rushdie pulled it off at times. I loved the conclusion of part I. The painter Dashwanth became so enchanted with his masterpiece of the fantastic beauty, Qara Köz, that he entered the painting to be with her and was never seen again. It was unique, beautifully written, and romantic. Everything I thought this book would be. But then Part II started and I became bored again.
Wow, this is beautiful. Ok, I’m getting bored. I’m gonna stop reading now. Wait! BRILLIANCE! Alright, now we’re getting somewhere! Damn, I’m getting bored and confused again. I’m stopping for real this time. BRILLIANCE! Ok Salman! I’m back on board and ready for this ending! That was the end? Sigh.
Friday, October 2, 2009
This hyper-sexual violence towards women combined with the constant womanizing of the main characters, the constant put downs related to the worth of women relative to men and after a while it makes you start to wonder; has Martin created a world filled with systemic female degradation because he is laying the foundation for an ultimate commentary on oppression, violence and human dignity? Or has he created a world filled with female degradation because that is what he likes writing about? I haven't finished the series yet but I have a suspicion it is the latter which is where the icky feeling I have towards this book comes from. Hopefully, it turns out I am wrong although subsequent books have done little to relax my suspicions.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Rating: 4 Pierogies
Rating: 5 Pierogies
The Hunger Games is one of those books that when you finish, you feel sad because the story is over and you will never be able to read it for the first time again. I read this book in two days and I am now disappointed in myself for not having slowed down to savor it. Let this be a warning for future readers of The Hunger Games – do not allow yourself to speed-read through this book or you will regret it later!I am happy to report that The Hunger Games is set in a post-apocalyptic America and the main character – Katniss – is from an area that was once known as Appalachia. The main industry in her poor region is coal mining. Based on these clues, I decided that Katniss was probably from Pittsburgh – no wonder she was a smart, strong, and compassionate girl! Suzanne Collins’s nod to Pittsburgh (at least in my imagination) definitely set me up to love the book.
In the Hunger Games, 24 children are taken by the government every year and forced to participate in a reality television show where they fight to the death, leaving one child alive and victorious. After the government randomly selects Katniss’s little sister to participate, Katniss makes the ultimate sacrifice and volunteers to take her place in the game.
While playing, underdog Katniss must “outplay, outsmart, and outlast” her competitors. I loved the premise of this novel and learning about how Katniss played the game – her strategies, friendships, alliances, etc. Suzanne Collins succeeded in being descriptive, but not too descriptive in a way that would have interrupted the fast pace of this novel.
I found The Hunger Games to be extremely engaging and addictive. I highly recommend it as an entertaining and thought-provoking read. I also note that while this book is categorized as young adult, I found that it easily crosses over to an adult audience. Its sequel, Catching Fire, comes out September 1, and I plan to be at Barnes and Nobel first thing in the morning on September 1 to pick it up.
Marley is an adorable, but badly behaved Labrador Retriever who was adopted by the Grogan’s shortly after they were married. He is with them through their ups and downs, and all the stages of this young family. They are inevitably taught about themselves, life, and love. Awwwwww!
I am an animal lover who can relate completely to the story of a family’s love for their dog. Some parts were truly touching and sweet. One or two were funny-ish, and the end made me cry like an infant. The problem I had were the stories about the family. I found many of their choices that set up these supposedly hilarious stories to be stupid and annoying. I thought John Grogan was totally unlikable, and quite frankly, I don’t need to know how they conceived their children. I guess the appeal is supposed to be fact that they are an ordinary family. But I don’t really want to read 304 pages about a boring family that I don’t like.
The bottom line is that this should have been a 100 page novella focused solely on the dog. I think it could have been very tender and moving. Instead, John Grogan forced us to read way too much about him and it was incredibly cheesy. I also found it to be emotionally manipulative at times, which I do not appreciate.
I would say this is a good light read, but it’s not that good, and it’s too upsetting to be considered light. So I guess if you like to cry hysterically over something that isn’t very good and find tedious journalists to be fascinating, this is the book for you!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Rating: 2 Pierogies