Five Easy Pieces

April 26, 2007

Third great reason to return…

Filed under: Books — danletscher @ 11:16 pm

My new job puts me back on the train heading downtown in the morning and back home in the evening. I did this a few years back for over two years and missed the fact that it afforded me the opportunity to basically read a book a week. The first one I picked to read upon my return to the world of public transit was The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly.

It’s a great read, full of action, fantasy, heartache and great prose that appreciates the world of stories and writing. Young David, 12 years old, has witnessed his mother slowly die of illness, his father find new love, marry and then welcome another son, while World War II rages on. London is being bombed regularly and David’s new family is transplanted to his stepmother’s family estate in the English countryside. David sleeps in the room of her great uncle, Jonathon, who disappeared as a young boy. David, an avid reader and lover of the written word, much to the credit of his dead mother, soon realizes the books in his room are living things and the sunken garden in his backyard is the portal to a world so bizarre and fantastic he wouldn’t believe it if he wasn’t thrust into it. It is in this world that David is faced with seemingly impossible challenges, incredible friendships and the chance to save himself and the alternate reality he has stumbled into. This world is inhabited by storytellers who pass on tales by firelight and also by twisted versions of classic fairy tales. It is also savage and violent and the author spares no detail in conveying the dangerous and grotesque perils David and his companions face. And lurking behind the action is the Crooked Man, shadowing David, working his sinister magic and murderous devices to deliver David to his fate.

The opening chapter of the book sucks you in by detailing David’s love of literature, his mother’s declining health and the bond between them forged by both:

“Before she became ill, David’s mother would often tell him that stories were alive. They weren’t alive in the way that people were alive, or even dogs or cats. People were alive whether you chose to notice them or not, while dogs tended to make you notice them if they decided that you weren’t paying them enough attention. Cats, meanwhile, were very good at pretending people didn’t exist at all when it suited them, but that was another matter entirely.

Stories were different though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. They were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. They lay dormant, hoping for the chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination, and transform the reader. Stories wanted to be read, David’s mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.”

Damn, that’s poetry. It’s a great read and a great writer.

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2 Comments »

  1. Sounds like a great read. Now, if only I had a train to relax on in transit to work 😛

    Comment by Teem — May 18, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  2. Kris and I looooooved this book. The end was unbelievably emotional; we were both weeping. The theme of story as the method we use to fashion our lives ties in so closely with the work we do here at the theater. The book is still a bit advanced for Teagan but, hey, once a story is told, it’s a living thing. It will be there when she’s ready.

    Comment by Scoot — July 26, 2007 @ 1:30 pm


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