A few years ago, I read Michael Singer’s book, The Untethered Soul. I loved it so much that when I saw his second book, I didn’t hesitate putting it on my reading list.
The first book offers up tools for breaking free of a mind that thinks it knows how life should play out. Without breaking free, we resist everything that doesn’t match up with our desires and try to control life instead of letting it happen.
The Surrender Experiment: My Journey Into Life’s Perfection is an autobiography and case study, more or less, of how surrendering to life as it happens took him in directions he would never have anticipated, lining up seemingly random experiences to magical effect.
He recounts example after example of synchronicity that he attributes to letting go of resistance. There were so many examples, I admit I skimmed through the latter third of the book because, well, I got the gist.
The book was inspirational without being religious. Singer is a Yogi who experienced a deep awareness during the time period he worked on his PhD. He built a spiritual center, built a construction company, and build a multi-million dollar software company even though all he really wanted was to sit in the woods by himself meditating and practicing yoga.
Just finished reading Christopher Moore’s novel, A Dirty Job. A friend recommended the novel knowing I’d enjoy the story and Moore’s humor.
The characters were quirky and fantastic. They all felt strong and bounced off each other to great comedic effect. I was especially satisfied watching the protagonist change from a neurotically paranoid anxious worrywart to fearless hero. That was beautiful.
The dialogue, while natural, sounded so much like the narrator’s voice at times that it took me out of the story a bit. And even though the humor felt forced at times, there were magical bits sprinkled throughout that punched me in the funny bone so hard I couldn’t help but guffaw.
The climax of the battle felt like a cheat because the protagonist doesn’t actually save the day despite going to battle and fighting valiantly. The one who ultimately saves the day does it with virtually no effort and could technically have settled things before the protagonist ever had to attempt the final showdown. Of course, that might have meant no story which would be much worse because it’s such a fun tale.
Overall, I loved the concepts Moore played with about souls and death. I thought some of the ideas, characters, and situations were wildly imaginative. And I enjoyed his occasional irreverence. No matter how dark it got, the narrator and the story were so infectiously joyful I couldn’t help but smile.
I haven’t read all things Neil Gaiman but I’ve read enough to know that I enjoy his storytelling. (Plus, I’ve harbored a “schoolgirl crush” on him for decades!) His world-building feels real and inventive, and his writing has that touch of humor I enjoy. One of Gaiman’s classic works is American Gods which I finally read last month. (I have a lot of reading to catch up on!)
The characters are memorable weirdos and the plot line has plenty of intrigue, tension, and depth. No spoilers here, but the story builds up wonderfully and I was on the edge of my seat waiting to find out how it would resolve.
The story is about a battle brewing between old and new gods on American soil. The old gods, like Scandinavia’s Odin and Africa’s Anansi, followed true believers as they resettled in the “new land” from all over the world. The new gods are newly formed, created by all the things that increasingly capture our time and imagination like media and technology.
Most people I know who have read and raved about the book couldn’t praise it enough. I didn’t need much convincing to push the book toward the top of my reading list. I mean, it is Neil Gaiman we’re talking about!
The resolution as it relates to the protagonist was satisfying. And the resolution of the battle was logical; it seemed in keeping with what the driving character of the battle would do. But the truth about it left me feeling cheated on visceral level. I know it was clever but it felt like a cheap shot. And I really hate saying that.
But having said that, I have to emphasize that I still enjoyed the writing and the storytelling (except for that bit that irritates me). He has lots of interesting twists, incorporates folklore and fantasy which I love, and throws in a generous amount of humor for good measure.
Last month, I finally got around to reading Kent Haruf’s novel, Plainsong. I purchased it a few years ago because it was a finalist for the National Book Award. Reading the synopsis, I wondered how so many story threads would weave together to create something like a Gregorian chant. It looked like a quiet novel to rest into.
I was skeptical that I’d engage with this story about a pregnant teenager, two elderly spinster ranchers, a teacher, and the teacher’s two sons. How much could I relate to these characters? The novel called out for me to read it anyway.
The writing style was unadorned and the characters felt honest and believable. The various storylines read like the happenings of everyday people dealing with challenging situations. There were some scenes in the novel that illustrated the brutality of bullies which still haunt me. None of it seemed sentimental though.
By the time I reached the end of the novel, the storylines had become like the voices in a choir chanting a song. The simple, honest beauty of the story moved me deeply.