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19 April 2014

'Enon' by Paul Harding

Paul Harding really is that good

Most good writers entertain me, sometimes they teach me and often they leave me eager for more.  Most bad writers leave me indifferent and at worst annoyed at the waste of my time.  Then there are great writers… You all have read a few of them.  The kinds of writers that make you want to write; the kind of writers that make you despair of writing because you will never be as good; the kind of writer whose turn of phrase lingers in your mind; the kind of writer whose characters have depth and subtlety and grace regardless of their age or status… That kind of writer is Paul Harding. I did not think he could write like that again.

I cried at the beginning.  I cried at the end.  I cried in between.  Sometimes I was sad, often I was grateful… Harding is that good.  The whole story is told from the point of one man, Charlie Crosby.  His triumphs but mostly his loss and failure are told in his beloved home town of Enon.  The reader gets to know some of the towns people and the history of the town.  I also got to know my own sense of judgement, tolerance and sympathy.   In taking Charlie's mask off to see him, I had to take mine off and see myself.  There are some hard lessons in this book if you are willing to look closely.  If you only wish to enjoy a beautiful story, beautifully told, then this is also a book for you.

I read 'Tinkers', his Pulitzer Prize winning book and thought I was in story telling heaven...  The elegant sort of heaven with beautiful libraries and gardens in which to read with just the right kind of tea and chocolate that matches the kind of book you wish to read that day. Ehem… Instead, he did it again.  'Enon' is a love story with a town and a child and life and choices and and and.  It is not a romance. There are no happy endings if what you mean by happy endings are everyone living whole, vindicated and happily ever after.  The best this book can offer is hope and a grown up sort of hope at that…exactly the sort of hope that dawn brings every day, no solutions only … opportunity, potential… for good or bad.  That 'Enon' happens to be a distant continuation of 'Tinkers' gives it added depth and poignance.  It is not necessary to read one before the other.  'Enon' is beautiful on its own.

Paul Harding 
ISBN: 9780434021727 

13 April 2014

'World War Z' shortly followed by 'The Zombie Survival Guide' by Max Brooks

While reading, I assessed my home for defense as well as available weapons

One of the best parts of reading many a horror book is closing it and saying "This is not real".  It is often my favorite part of reading such books.  Stephen King excels in terrifying me paragraph to paragraph.  He suspends my disbelief with a deft touch and gives me stomach aches.  Having said that, a demon possessed car is not a plausible concern in my world.  So I can go to sleep, eventually, 99.99 % certain that my car will not be possessed in the morning.  The same goes for other kinds of stories that often involve monsters.  I thought zombies would be fun.

I wish I could say I had a good laugh while reading 'World War Z'.  I wish I could say I did not go out and buy it's companion book 'The Zombie Survival Guide' a week or two after completing it.  In fact, I wish I could say it did not linger.  Who wants to dream of zombies? like I did… two nights in a row.  'An Oral History of the Zombie War', as it is also titled, feels real.  The interviews, the individual survivors who are damaged or crazy or ashamed or relieved or all of the above were real.  Unfortunately, the political reactions to a zombie pandemic were real in the worst sense.  I am certain that in an alternate world the zombie apocalypse is real.  WWZ channels that history into fiction in our own dimension.

My nightmares were on a personal level.  A slow nameless terror in my garden (which I don't have in real life and now may never have thanks to this nightmare… easily defensible homes from now on) or running from zombies with my children down a tunnel... nightmare number two, made me realize how much I had internalized the stories.  On a conscious level, my favorite parts of the book were the political and cultural decisions that affected people on a personal level.  Max Brooks draws these connections with precision but is not heavy handed.  My imagination made everything clear.  In some cases, I wish my imagination had not made anything clear.

While reading, I assessed my home for defense as well as available weapons in different areas.  I felt reassured by my dog and cat or as I like to think of them, "warning system".  My life became for several days haunted by slow, moaning, merciless, soulless creatures who may or may not look like relatives…depending on the day dreams of the moment.  By the way, it helps to put faces of loved ones on the zombies of your mind so that you are prepared to defend yourself.  'The Zombie Survival Guide' helped me fine tune many of my ruminations.  I was disappointed to find that in these parts of Europe machetes are difficult to acquire.  I have used machetes in South America so I feel confident in wielding one.  I am not sure a hatchet would be as useful.

Go out and read these books… Contact me later so as to form survival committees in multiple continents… 'cause you never know.

Max Brooks 
ISBN: 9780804137881