Friday, September 28, 2012

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien

The Hobbit by J R R Tolkien is a classic and with reason.  I can't even say how many times I've read this book and I reread this and Lord of the Rings about every ten years but when I first read them I read them every year, sometimes even back-to-back.

I revisit the novels because they are one of the few where I fall in love each and every time.  The characters never fail to delight and inspire, the story is always engaging, and the prose is elegant.  This is masterful story-telling, an epic myth or mythic epic par excellence.  And this is one of the first times that the Banned Books Group has chosen a book I've already read that I was eager to read.  (Truth is, the group didn't choose so much as it came up in discussion and, since there are three books in The Lord of the Rings it made sense to read them over the summer--June, July, August.  Naturally, I began by reading the prequel.)

When my children were young, I read this novel to them, hoping they would be inspired to read The Lord of the Rings.  Although my son only remembers my reading this novel and vaguely remembers my reading one other, none of them read the trilogy.  They did see the movies, however, so they know, give or take some variations, how the story goes.

And now The Hobbit is coming to the big screen.  I'm so excited!  The journey of Bilbo Baggins from ordinary hobbit to hero is classic but it is especially remarkable in that he himself is mostly a catalyst, not performing the ultimate act of heroism that actually occurs "off set" by another character altogether.

Still, there's no debating that Bilbo is a hero, flawed though he may be.  He isn't noble nor brave.  He is relatably typical, average, and yet he is living in extraordinary times and if he mostly stumbles his way into doing the right thing at least he does something.  Which is why this novel, and the others, stand up to repeated readings.  What is most admirable about Bilbo is not how remarkable he is but how unremarkable and yet he is a hero in the end.

Edit:  Since writing this review months ago, it has been announced that instead of two movies there will be three and since this announcement, my enthusiasm has diminished exponentially.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Poem Traveled Down My Arm by Alice Walker

 A Poem Traveled Down My Arm by Alice Walker is a collection of poems and doodle-like drawings that reveal Walker's spiritual context and personal beliefs.  In the introduction to the book she explains that was dealing with a writing drought--not so much a block as a burnout, no longer wanting to write.  Who can blame her?  Most famous for her novels, Walker is prolific, writing essays and poetry and is politically active, speaking out against the social injustices she sees around her.

I have read a few of Walker's poems, usually in other collections or as a complement to an article in a magazine.  I have been touched by her novels and blown away by some of her essays.  So I was eager to immerse myself in her poetry and intrigued by the context of her being driven to pour herself onto the page in both words and images.

The end result, however, is disappointing.  The work is mostly self-indulgent, with occasionally nice or even pretty lines but nothing truly provocative.  These poems are easy, not in that they are non-academic, something that would not trouble me in the least.  I would have been thrilled if she had been challenging the status quo.  However, these poems read more like something comfortable.  Compare advertising with literature, psycho-babble versus deep thinking, and you get some concept of what I am saying.  This is simply not Walker at her best.

Perhaps if the poems had been collected with some essays that the reader could really sink teeth into or some pieces on her spiritual journey, I would have been more engaged and interested.  Unfortunately, I was not and now I don't know if I'll ever seek out another of her poetry collections or just stick with her essays, her fiction, her nonfiction.  No doubt there are those who adore anything and everything she publishes.  Clearly, I am not one of those.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Healing Power of Reiki by Raven Keyes

The Healing Power of Reiki:  A Modern Master Master's Approach to Emotional, Spiritual & Physical Wellness by Raven Keyes is a book meant to promote something but I am not clear what it is.  With a foreword by Dr Mehmet Oz, it is certain to gain a wider audience than many books on Reiki.

Keyes has been named the best Reiki healer in New York city in New Yorker magazine and has worked not only with Dr. Oz but with NFL and NBA players and more.  She shares stories of volunteering after the 9-11 attacks and frequently offers humble gratitude for her many blessings, never taking credit for the healings while proclaiming repeatedly that it is the Reiki that heals.

However, chapter after chapter ends up feeling more like a self-promotion than a woman's personal healing journey and, at best, it sounds like an advertisement for Reiki than a resource that the reader could use to share the ideas of Reki with a skeptical audience. In fact, anyone who is skeptical about the real benefits of Reiki will probably walk way with more reasons to be a skeptic.  Keyes talks about her spirit guides, guardian angels, and even shares stories of being visited by the dead who have messages for those who are on her healing table.

For those who think Reiki is too "out there" or, as my mother would say "woo woo," this book is all the ammunition you will need to agree.  Maybe the name dropping she does will lend this book a legitimacy but I found it more distasteful than interesting.  Yay, Keyes has had many blessings, opportunities to work with famous people, and does not hesitate to tell them all.  For a Madison Avenue style presentation, it's great.  It is not, however, a book I would recommend to most people.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...