What do an aging 50-year-old writer and a skinhead body builder have in common? This is an intriguing little book, written part as memoir and part asWhat do an aging 50-year-old writer and a skinhead body builder have in common? This is an intriguing little book, written part as memoir and part as history of working out, weights and bodybuilding, and little bit of dreams. Sven, who is our 50- year-old writer, meets the skinhead in the sauna; they end up talking, as people will at the gym, and a man who only swam laps started working out. Yet in the process of working out, he experiences an almost religious epiphany.
A man, who was happy as a writer traveling the world, and was content with middle age, slowly reawakens dreams from his youth. As he workouts, Sven remembers childhood dreams, like a desire to visit the Sahara desert.
This book begins with a quote from Marcus Aurelius; “Does transformation frighten you? Yet what can happen without transformation? Can you yourself take a hot bath without the wood being transformed, can you nourish yourself without the food being transformed? Do you not then see that your own transformation is equally necessary?”, and this book will change you. As I read it, my own childhood dreams and aspirations, long put away, were awakened. This book is broken up into 85 penses or thoughts. Some are the personal reflections of the author, some of history, and tidbits of information fun and bizarre, and a few are visions that Sven has along his journey.
This book is the first in a trilogy. The last chapters of the first two are the first chapter of the next. They are Desert Divers , a journey into the desert to see childhood dreams, and Exterminate All the Brutes, a history of genocides in Africa committed by Europeans and leading up to the great genocide of the Nazi reign. Sven, in the preface to Bench Press, states: “As a boy, I read about fire-eaters and well-divers, sandstorms and desert lakes. I dreamed of going to the Sahara. Bench Press is the story of how I found my dream again....…these books grew out of one another and form a single unit, taking the reader from the self-obsessed physical culture of the early 1980’s to a new awareness of the crimes of the past and the threats lying ahead in the future.”
Lindqvist books in English are not easy to find, but are well worth the effort. Back to the writer and the skinhead, what they have in common is self-image and self- doubt that can be overcome, and dreams that are assisted by building the body. Or as Montaigne stated a long time ago: “To Strengthen the mind you must harden the muscles.” Use this book for the mind and maybe it will challenge you to do some work on tuning up the body as well.
(First Published in Imprint 2005-11-18 as 'Memoirs, brains and brawn')
(Reprinted in Across the Creek the St. Jerome's Students' Union newspaper column 'Book Look' November 2005)
It is hard to believe that a series of books has kept my attention through 10 books. Yet that is exactly what Brust has done. Every time a new book coIt is hard to believe that a series of books has kept my attention through 10 books. Yet that is exactly what Brust has done. Every time a new book comes out I go back and reread the entire series up to that point. I read the first ones back in the 80's in high school as they came out, and I thought that the Character of Vlad Taltos was the coolest. He is a member of House Jehreg and a sometime assassin. Vlad once read quickly becomes an immensely popular protagonist. I have introduced these books to numerous friends and all have loved him and the books.
Issola, in the book before Dzur Vlad, is wandering around the countryside with a price on his head, and lamenting about how his life got so turned upside down. Vlad in Dzur, gets to do what he likes best- he starts stirring things up and seeing where the pieces fall.
One of my favorite elements of this series is that you never know how Brust will start chapters off. Each book has had chapter headings in a new and unique way. In the one book it was quick wit "No matter how subtle the wizard a knife between the shoulder blades will seriously cramp his style." In another it is a list of cleaning and repairs to an outfit. In this one it is a recollection of a meal at Valabar's - a restaurant that makes appearances throughout the series. If Brust is able to create the meal described in these snippets he is not only a master wordsmith but must be close to a master chef.
Brust had Vlad come back to the capitol city because his estranged wife is in trouble. He rushes in where angels would fear to tread. He steps into the middle of a power struggle with organized crimes' two sides of the family. He fears getting friends killed or injured, but is more than willing to risk his own neck. However, as Vlad is getting older, he is also mellowing some and maturing.
Vlad realizes that he cannot do it himself. He challenges his patron Goddess to help as much as she can. He also enlists the help of some of those who have offered, but warns them not to take too many risks. Vlad is a little more subdued and subtle in this book compared to some of the earlier ones. However he is just as enjoyable as a character and the journey with him through the adventure in Dzur is as exciting and thrilling as the previous books.
Like the meal described at the beginning of the chapters, Brust's books need to be savored and enjoyed at the pace they come at us. Just as Vlad describes the meal step by step and makes comparisons between preparing a meal and preparing a hit, Brust leads us to discover more and more about Vlad as we go through the courses in this book.
Like each of the previous 9 books in this series, Jhereg (1983), Yendi (1984),Teckla (1987), Taltos (1988), Phoenix (1990), Athyra (1993), Orca (1996),Dragon (1998), Issola (2001), Dzur (2007), and I'm sure, the forthcoming Jhegaala (2008) and now Iorich (2010) this book is a great read. The series is planned to be a total of 19 books, making this one the middle point as far as volumes. It leaves a lot of questions unanswered and the readers salivating for the next volume.
(First Published in Imprint 2007-08-31 as "Series still captivates after 10 books.") Read the review and with links to other reviews of books by the author on my blog Book Reviews and More....more
Kathie Shaidle is a Canadian treasure. This book will grab your heart while you travel with her in her illness. In this collection is a series of coluKathie Shaidle is a Canadian treasure. This book will grab your heart while you travel with her in her illness. In this collection is a series of columns that were written after she was diagnosed with lupus.
“’Quitting your day job’ is every artist’s dream. Mine came true in 1991, when some government arts grants let me write full time. Six weeks later, I contracted systemic lupus erthematosus, an incurable, life-threatening disease.” p.7 Now she cannot even live her dream job.
At 26 she had reached her dream. She was writing full time, and looking forward to it. Then her life crashes around her feet. The pain was to the point that she could not even write. In these 26 chapters you will journey through pain, despair, hope, faith and doubt.
Shaidle has opened her illness, her life and her faith to us with a tremendous vulnerability. She states: “I can’t help but think about the bad TV my life would make. I’m not a likeable, disease-movie-of-the-week heroine, pretty in a plain sort of way, running marathons or whatever in spite of my incurable illness.” p.23
With such chapters as ‘I’ve fallen and I can’t get up’ and ‘Confessions of a bearded lady’, the book will also uplift, encourage and make you smile and laugh.
But to find out why God rides a Yamaha you will have to read the book.
Read the review and with links to other reviews of books by the author on my blog Book Reviews and More. And also an author profile and interview with Kathy Shaidle....more