Thursday, December 4, 2008

Open Wide

I think of it as the Good Book Vortex. Every so often I go through a period where I fall in love with every book I pick up. It doesn't happen often, maybe every couple years or so. And I'm open to the idea that it has more to do with my frame of mind than the books themselves (though I'd argue each one of the books are objectively good).

Anyway. I went through a few months this year where every book I picked up was mediocre (or in the case of The Emperor's Children, so ill-conceived it made me angry upon finishing it). But it seems I've once again stumbled into the creamy nougat center of the Good Book Vortex. It started with Seven Types of Ambiguity ("What is it about men that makes women so lonely?"), continued with Sharp Teeth (a wonderfully odd epic poem about werewolves, recommended by Maggie and her excellent on-line book club), then onto Under the Banner of Heaven (a book about the weird and bloody history of the Mormon church). And now I'm reading Life of Pi. So good I'll quote a little of it here:

"There is the story of the baby Krishna, wrongly accused by his friends of eating a bit of dirt. His foster mother, Yashoda, comes up to him with a wagging finger. 'You shouldn't eat dirt, you naughty boy,' she scolds him. 'But I haven't,' says the unchallenged lord of all and everything, in sport disguised as a frightened human child. 'Tut, tut. Open your mouth,' orders Yashoda. Krishna does as he is told. He opens his mouth. Yashoda gasps. She sees in Krishna's mouth the whole complete entire timeless universe, all the stars and planets of space and the distance between them, all the lands and seas of the Earth and the life in them; she sees all the days of yesterday and all the days of tomorrow; she sees all ideas and all emotions, all pity and all hope, and the three strands of matter; not a pebble, candle, creature, village or galaxy is missing, including herself and every bit of dirt in its truthful place. 'My Lord, you can close your mouth,' she says reverently."

I don't know if the power of that story has more to do with Hinduism or with Yann Martell, who wrote the book. But the image has been following me around for days now.

Good book.


Eric Shonkwiler said...

That's a great excerpt. I've picked up Pi before but never brought it to the checkout. Dunno why.

I don't read enough books these days to get any kind of vortex. When I get the time I usually reread some Hemingway or McCarthy. I'm hoping for some Bolano this Christmas, though.

meno said...

I liked Pi very much too. And based on your recommendation i am currently reading Seven types...

I am reading it more slowly than i normally would, because it's that delicious.

This means i need to get a hold of Sharp Teeth.

Mutha said...

Life of Pi is miraculous. I also really liked Sharp Teeth -- although it gave me nightmares.
I'm reading "I have fun everywhere I go," by Mike Edison. Excellent.

Clowncar said...

I got Bolano last Christmas, E. The Savage Detectives. Still haven't read it.

Lemme know what you think of Ambiguity when you're finished, Meno. I'm interested - I've talked to a couple people who really disliked that book.

Never heard of "I have fun everywhere I go," Mutha. Sounds like...well, fun.

Gordo said...

meno, definitely get Sharp Teeth. Simply amazing book.

I have Life of Pi in a box somewhere. A friend gave it to me with a pile of books several years ago, but I haven't picked it up yet. I'll have to read it over Christmas.

Clowncar said...

Definitely read Pi, Gordo. Not only a great read, but helpful if you're ever trapped in a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger in the middle of the Pacific.