I found The Magician's Elephant to be a charming and uplifting fable, with messages about love, hope, and finding ways to connect with our fellow man.I found The Magician's Elephant to be a charming and uplifting fable, with messages about love, hope, and finding ways to connect with our fellow man. There is no real character development; as in any good fable, the characters seem more to represent archetypes more than well-rounded individuals.
Despite this, there were some very relatable moments with the characters, including: A gentleman remembering a very special dog from his childhood; the magician feeling a desire to be "special," which later becomes a desire to share those special magical moments with someone; the elephant, alone in a room, longing to go home; and a nun, having a tangible vision, for a moment, of her connection to all living things - something she'd always believed.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, and found myself smiling at the conclusion. The book was full of beautiful quotes and messages, without becoming treacly or full of platitudes. The overwhelming message is one of love and forgiveness … and being grateful for the magical things we see in the world around us, and grateful for the joys other people experience. The book seems to say that we, personally, might not get exactly the miracle we were hoping for, but if we keep our hearts open to the people around us, the potential for love and joy is even greater. ...more
Neil Gaiman is a master of modern fairy tales. This one for me is just shy of 5 stars, because for some reason it took me a couple chapters to reallyNeil Gaiman is a master of modern fairy tales. This one for me is just shy of 5 stars, because for some reason it took me a couple chapters to really get invested in the characters. It's definitely worth reading - it's entertaining, and a fairly quick read. Anansi's stories are great - they feel ancient, and authentic, and right at home with something out of Rudyard Kipling or Joseph Campbell. However at first I found Fat Charlie, the main protagonist, mundane and kind of annoying. He has a terrible job, a prim and proper fiancée, and an awful future mother-in-law, and he seems content to wallow in it. But after he talks to a spider, and his brother shows up, I began to understand Charlie. He just needed a little kick to get him out of his rut. What at first annoyed me about the character - he was a little too pat - I later realized was intentional; Fat Charlie is really more than a character in a story; he's more of an archetype in a myth. My favorite quote from the book about Anansi - at times god, man, spider, dead, alive - is: "No, he never changed his shape. It's just a matter of how you tell the story. That's all." And the way this story is told, I was able to relate to Charlie, learn something about myself, and feel swept up in mysterious, otherworldly events that make no sense in the context of everyday life - yet ring absolutely true in the dark recesses of our subconscious....more
"Mass Movements," as the title refers to, include everything from cults to political movements. Hoffer gives a detailed look at the personality types"Mass Movements," as the title refers to, include everything from cults to political movements. Hoffer gives a detailed look at the personality types that are drawn to mass movements, and the personality types that lead them. He also looks at children of mass movements, and how their view of the world is altered by their upbringing. It is a dispassionate explanation of how people come to follow Hitler, or Stalin; or how members of a religion can participate in things like the Inquisition.
This book has great relevance today in our political spectrum as well — Mass movements, whether benevolent or dangerous, are all around us.
This book is one of the greatest books I've ever read. Of course it's personal - I was raised a Jehovah's Witness, so when I began questioning my own identity outside of that, this book helped me. I read this book every year. For me it was a life changer....more
Amazing. This book did everything right. The characters leapt off the page, their personalities so alive and their thoughts so believable. Katniss, thAmazing. This book did everything right. The characters leapt off the page, their personalities so alive and their thoughts so believable. Katniss, the main (and viewpoint) character, is heartbreaking as a young, innocent girl forced to grow up quickly and make terrible decisions to ensure her own survival as well as the people she cares about. She is forced into a sort of gladiator role, where her struggle for survival is simply a source of amusement for people richer than she could ever imagine.
Katniss is a natural warrior, but the worst, and best, of it is how she must learn to navigate a completely different sort of arena. She must learn to put on a show for the apathetic masses, to feign emotion, to put on a show for the best entertainment value. At the same time she desperately tries to stay true to herself, when she is barely old enough to really know herself.
It put me in mind, in a way, of the worst of reality shows - or of how we gleefully watch as famous young celebrities destroy their lives.
Amazing book. Can't wait to read the next one....more
Fascinating, reminded me of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Great insight into True Believers, also, and how people react when their worldview is challeFascinating, reminded me of Plato's Allegory of the Cave. Great insight into True Believers, also, and how people react when their worldview is challenged. Poor little square that lives in a two-dimensional world has an experience in the third dimension, sees the truth of our natures, and is unable to relay his experiences to his fellow two-dimensional inhabitants, because the third dimension is not visible, can only be inferred. Ultimately he is unsuccessful and imprisoned for knowing the truth, and being unable to let it go. He could be a parallel to scientists, or to great religious visionaries, equally — because there is no evidence for his claims, at least to his peers. Wow.
Also interesting is the flatlanders' devotion to very traditional, antiquated, borderline offensive mores. Women are ignorant, docile, and uneducated; men must stay in the station they are born into, and only their offspring have a chance at a higher class (those that are, are taken away from their inferior parents); the highest classes control government and education for the masses. Abhorrent to enlightened us in "spaceland" — right?
Wow. what an allegory!
Notable quotes: "Yet mark his perfect self-contentment, and hence learn this lesson, that to be self-contented is to be vile and ignorant, and that to aspire is better than to be blindly and impotently happy." (Sphere to square, regarding the lowly point)
"Its own Thought coming to Itself, suggestive of Its disparagement, thereby to enhance Its happiness!" (Point to self, not recognizing that the cruel words spoken by the Square were coming from outside the point's own universe. Great illustration of the true believer's thought acrobatics.)
"Prometheus up in Spaceland was bound for bringing down fire for mortals, but I -- poor Flatland Prometheus -- lie here in prison for bringing down nothing to my countrymen." (What was the point of his journey, his glimpse of the True nature of things? He is viewed as a crazy person, preacher of apostacy, and even his own memories of the things he saw fade over time and distance, with no one to share his certainty.)...more
My enjoyment of this book was tempered by Blade Runner. The movie is so imprinted on my memory, and had such an impact on my view of souls, androids,My enjoyment of this book was tempered by Blade Runner. The movie is so imprinted on my memory, and had such an impact on my view of souls, androids, created vs. evolved, etc. The book is phenomenal, and I can see how it was earth-shattering in its day. But since the central questioning realization was denied me, I could only read with a view to its literary and storytelling merits.
For me, these don't hold up quite as well. I think I, yet again, expected to be wowed by such a universally praised book; when I wasn't, I felt just a tad let down. There just wasn't anything new or unexplored — For example, in the movie the actress discovers she is an android, and the multiple emotions play across her face in such a beautiful, musical way. In comparison, the character as read felt a bit flat. In fact, all of the characters were so well developed in the movie; in the book, they almost felt like unrealized wire frames.
However I think this is a consequence of both overhyped expectations, and seeing the movie before reading the book.
If I had come to this book a 'virgin', I might have felt differently. ...more
I've never read much Stephen King before. I vividly remember a disgusting and terrifying scene from one of his books I read when I was a teen, where aI've never read much Stephen King before. I vividly remember a disgusting and terrifying scene from one of his books I read when I was a teen, where a man stabs a pen through his hand. It turned me off of Stephen King; I never read another book of his. Still gives me the shivers. So when I picked up this book, after many, many endorsements, I wasn't sure what to expect, or if I would like it at all.
To my great surprise, I loved it. I read the entire book in one sitting, a very strange thing for a nonfiction advice book. It was so well written, thought-provoking, inspiring. In fact I now want to go and read some of his fiction, it was that good.
Main points: Read, a lot, and write, a lot. Write every day, and set a goal (start easy, 1,000 words a day) and meet it no matter what. Write what you love, and do not be ashamed of it - there is nothing wrong with writing horror, romance, fantasy, scifi, or serious literary pieces, as long as you love it, and you are honest. Above all, honesty and truth. Write for your ideal reader.
Great advice, and fascinating story behind it, on how he became a writer. I loved the tone of his writing, it kept me turning pages....more
**spoiler alert** Heralded as the best Time Travel novel of all. (Time, ha ha!) Very, very weird, and definitely thought-provoking. Parts were fascina**spoiler alert** Heralded as the best Time Travel novel of all. (Time, ha ha!) Very, very weird, and definitely thought-provoking. Parts were fascinating: Daniel inherits a Time Belt that allows him to travel through time from his Uncle. He travels through time, trying to change his future, his past, his world for the better - yet he is completely trapped in a temporal loop that he cannot escape from. It turns out he is his own father and mother (from a different temporal universe where he is a she), and they have a love affair, and have a son. Or daughter, sometimes.
Daniel is raised by "Uncle Jim," who later turns out to be himself. The lead up to that was very logical, so I wasn't surprised by the development (which is a good thing!). Overall the logical exercises, the philosophical questioning about the consequences of our actions, both to ourselves and the world, was fascinating, my kind of prose. I also loved the Descartes-esque exploration of Daniel's multiple psyches; he is always Danny, but always not - sane, crazy, male, female, in love with himself and revolted by himself — almost a singularity of existence. Very cool.
But the book's action — Daniel's adventures, his excitement, and even his later love affair with himself, felt a little flat for me. It actually put me in mind of Philip K. Dick, in that the high concept made the book well worth reading, but in the end the narration itself let me down ever so slightly. ...more