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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

It’s been far too long, and the world is too full of good things not to share them. 

Today I’ve been thinking about a short story by James Baldwin called “Sonny’s Blues”, because it relates to a paper I just turned in for my world literature class (in an obscure way that not even I care about). 

[click here to see full text]

I first read this story a little over a year ago in a class required for my English minor. It surprised me by becoming my favorite thing we read that semester. 

As the story opens, the narrator’s brother–Sonny–has finally been busted for using/dealing heroin. We don’t meet Sonny yet because he goes to drug rehab. Not normally the kind of story that grabs my attention. 

The real story is about Sonny after he comes home. The narrator doesn’t trust him because of his past. Sonny has a hard time getting past other people’s perception of him, and we come to find out that Sonny still isn’t sure that he can beat this demon.

Baldwin brilliantly bypasses the question of whether or not Sonny overcomes his addiction. Instead, he focuses on the social problem: drug abuse. He doesn’t offer solutions, which we would like, but instead explores how it has affected Sonny’s life, humanizing the problem. At first I didn’t like this. I wanted to pass judgement against heroin use as pure evil, something detestable. It is, but Baldwin’s treatment of the issue reminds us that behind these “societal” problems are real people who have to struggle to overcome them personally.

Powerful, emotional, and thought provoking, Baldwin’s careful prose is a joy to read and rewards the thoughtful reader with a satisfying, enlightening, and thought-provoking ending. Highly recommended.

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I want to share my favorite book. You know it must be something magnificent to top my list of books. I won’t spoil the plot, just give my thoughts and feelings about it so will want to read it too. 🙂

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Front Cover: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane was written by Kate Dicamillo, author of The Tale of Despereaux, which won the Newberry Medal. The story is simple and straightforward. Uncomplicated enough for a child, but deep enough to attract even an adult’s fragmentary attention.

Edward Tulane is a rabbit. He isn’t just any rabbit though. Edward is a very expensive china rabbit with real fur on his ears and whiskers on his nose. His wardrobe was tailored in France, and the miniature pocket watch in his coat pocket actually works. And Edward is very, very proud of himself.

As the story opens, Edward is owned and loved by a little girl, but Edward loves only himself. And then Edward goes on a journey.

Kate Dicamillo has created a genuine masterpiece in this book. The story is not about a china rabbit. It is not really a child’s story. In a way, it’s almost not fiction. The real point, the focus of the book is so real and so genuine that you forget about the china rabbit. You forget that it’s a picture book. You might even forget that you’re reading a book. The plot, while direct, simple, and honest, slowly weaves a profound, emotional climax.

My friend’s brother-in-law read the book to his kids. His wife told me that when they got near the end, he was crying. “Stupid book,” he said, wiping away the tears, “These people aren’t even real.”

What I take out of the book is very personal for me. While at the beginning I feel no connection to the arrogant rabbit, by the end I’ve seen his journey run far beyond the range of my personal experience. It’s hard to explain this part when I don’t want to spoil the plot for you, my friends reading this. I think what I will do is write two posts. This is simply to tell you that you absolutely must read the book. The other will contain my thoughts and feelings reading it, which you can compare to what you take from it.

So read this book. It takes only two hours. I have a hardcover copy which I bought to share, if you want to borrow it. If you’re not in Provo or not currently speaking to me, check the library, check the bookstore, whatever it takes. Find the book and read it. When you have, you might enjoy my more detailed comments.

~nate

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