Sunday, May 08, 2005

Books that moved me, In a Sunburned Country Review

I was recently asked on the bookworm message board of America Online if there were books that moved me or changed me as a person during my reading life.
I had to respond that there were too many such books to mention in one posting.
Of Mice and Men, To A God Unknown, Travels With Charley, all by John Steinbeck, all books that moved me in a profound way. But I was also moved by Shakespeares "The Tempest" and by Ray Bradbury's short stories (and by his book about writing the script for Moby Dick and filming in Ireland...can't remember the name, but it was a wonderful book). I also loved Helene Hanff's "Q's Legacy" and "Underfoot in Show Business" and Patricia McKillips "Winter Rose" and a childrens book called "The Crystal Child" by Barbara Wersba....there are so many books that gripped me emotionally or changed my life in some way. Wm Faulkners "The Unvanquished" made me want to be a writer, back when I was 10. Robert Heinleins "Glory Road" made me want to be an astronaut, and Ted Sturgeons "Godbody" made me realize that everyone experiences God in a different way. Lois McMaster Bujolds Miles Vorkosigan books made me realize that if you have a handicap, it can be an advantage, not a detraction from leading a great life. Steinbeck's works made me realize that writers can uplift and enoble the human spirit with prose that is art, because it makes you think, feel, see the world in a different way. Some of his books are like a prayer from humankind to the infinite. Some of McKillips books are like a poem from the heart of humanity to God.
At any rate, I finished the overly long "In a Sunburned Country" by fellow Iowan Bill Bryson, and though it was by turns funny and fascinating, it also had a few too many ribald moments that I felt were inappropriate. Bryson seemed immature and ridiculous when cursing or fuming, and his salacious take on "Walking Matilda" was just plain stupid. Grow up, Bill.
I also finished Marianne Williamsons "Everyday Grace" and I found myself feeling as if specifc paragraphs had been written with me in mind. Perhaps it was because I gave my two-week notice at the Mercer Island Reporter Friday, 5/7/05, but it seemed that after 8 years, I am ready to move on to another chapter in my life. And Williamson had several chapters about change, fear, leaving one job, one aspect of a life to find another waiting around the corner. I can't say that I agree with her idea that the ego or self is at fault for all the worlds ills, and for keeping us from closer communion with God the Almighty. I think that having a sense of self and belief in ones self is important to having a healthy mind and heart. I don't pretend that I am ready to be what she terms "a modern mystic" however, so perhaps I am just not ready to rise to a new level of consciousness....whatever.
I do agree that we humans need to work on our souls and be more loving, more forgiving, more compassionate when we can be. But it's way too idealistic and unrealistic to expect us all to give up striving to make a living and just live on the streets and starve, too. I don't think God is going to provide me with a steak dinner every day just for worshipping Him. I also agree with her idea that we need to pray and be grateful to God when we are not in crisis mode. That's something both my husband and I need to work on, in addition to our need to learn to live without fear. But those are long-term goals, and not things that can be accomplished overnight. I do think that we are deserving of miracles, and that there is an infinite realm of miracles and love, I am just a regular mortal with a tiny speck of the universe within me, however, so my ability to access that is limited, I believe. I must learn to pray with my whole heart and soul, with honesty always, and Williamson has some excellent guidance in that respect, and some sensible words on the fragility of life and time.
I am currently in the third chapter of a Lucille Ball biography called "Ball of Fire" by Stefan Kanfer. So far, it's quite entertaining, though he makes Ball sound like a bit of a head case.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers, like me, who seem to spend every Mothers Day taking care of not just their own children, but other peoples kids, too.

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