Friday, 21 May 2010

May Reading

My author’s bedside table this month shows more non-fiction than novels, which is a sure sign her head is full of a novel of her own at the moment (that would be Genghis Khan's demolished book, now half rebuilt without a roof and looking like a building site surrounded by its piles of broken paragraphs). But she made an exception for…

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness
Todd, the last boy in Prentisstown, is on the run except he doesn’t know why. And he doesn’t know why the girl he finds hiding outside town has silent thoughts he cannot hear, or even that she is a girl at first, because in Prentisstown all the men have Noisy thoughts and there are no girls or women. Apart from Viola (the silent girl), Todd takes only a knife and his dead mother’s book, which he cannot read. So begins a long (500-page) chase across country to seek the town of Haven, where Todd believes he and Viola will be safe.

The setting feels vaguely American, so at first it is not clear this is actually an alien planet. But as Todd and Viola flee the Prentisstown army and a crazed preacher called Aaron, we learn more about the aliens called Spackle and the war that gave the men their Noise germ, making their thoughts loud enough to hear. This is very scary and makes it hard for Todd to hide. The plot might be simple, but the true power of this book lies in Todd’s internal struggle with the knife, which he will never let go, even though he refuses to use it to kill a man.

Do not be put off by the length, because the Muse galloped through this book. The style is easy with a lot of short lines, and the story is told in the present tense by Todd himself, which makes the pace seem even faster. The first half of the book is brilliant but (without giving too much away) the ending left the Muse a bit depressed. Of course it is the first part of a series, so the story is not over yet…

Glitter rating: 4.5 (would have been 5 if it had been a bit more cheerful at the end!)

Eternal Echoes – John O’Donohue
This spiritual book is based on Celtic themes that explore the soul’s hunger to belong in the world. Katherine bought it with a book token given to her by her brother, so wanted something she could keep on her shelf to remember the gift, and the orange cover with gold decoration caught her pagan eye. John O’Donohue is the author of “Anam Cara”, and here you'll find a discussion of topics such as belonging, sanctuary, prisons of the mind, suffering, prayer, longing, bridges, loss, absence… all the important things in life you humans never really seem to talk about as much as you should. Not all the essays spoke to the Muse, but when your soul feels wounded you might like to dip into this book to dig out the jewels.
Glitter rating: 3

Finding Water – Julia Cameron
This is the third book in Julia Cameron’s popular “Artist’s Way” series, which the Muse believes is essential reading if you are engaged in any kind of creative life. There are three books in all, each following the same format - a mixture of essays and exercises organized into a 12-week course based around the practice of daily morning pages, weekly artist dates, and regular physical activity such as walking. Each day of the course has a new exercise to inspire and guide you on the path to joyful creativity.

If you haven’t come across Julia Cameron’s books before, the Muse recommends starting with "The Artist’s Way". Give yourself time to work through it properly and don't be tempted to rush, because the power of the course is partly the act of doing the exercises (reflecting that the act of creation is as important as the result). The second book is called "Walking in this World", which continues the artist’s journey. "Finding Water" is all about perseverance, which is often vital part way through a creative career and explains why Katherine is tackling it now. She says it's sometimes hard to find water in the human world, and the last year has been a particularly dry one. The Muse wouldn’t know about that, because there are always plenty of sweet pools to drink from in the enchanted mists, but mortal artists often go thirsty, which is a bit sad.

Glitter rating: 5(+)
The Artist's Way books really deserve a post of their own, so keep your eye on this blog if you want to know more.

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