Tuesday, January 03, 2006

2006 Book Resolution: Book # 1

I made a New Year's resolution to read an average of a book a week for the year. It sounds like a lot, but some books are a one-day project, and I'm not restricting myself by genre or topic. As a super-fast reader, I don't think this resolution is unattainable. The problem with being a super-fast reader is that I don't tend to retain everything, so at some point I want to start writing a review of each book just after I finish it.

Dream big, right?

Uh, spoilers for the final book in the "His Dark Materials" series by Philip Pullman may follow. Vague ones, but nonetheless.

Book #1:
Title: The Amber Spyglass
Author: Philip Pullman
Date Started: December 30, 2005
Date Finished: January 3, 2006
Ill-informed first thoughts: I liked this series quite a bit, but this final book kept losing me. The ending...maybe I just need to go back and re-read all three books in the trilogy to put all the pieces together, but I felt a sense of loose ends at the end of the book. I wasn't quite sure why the two main characters' experience in chapter 35 had the effect that it did on the world; was it ever explained just why that was the critical, universe-saving act? (Probably, and I missed it by reading too quickly for comprehension!) Still, I like the premise, and the idea of overthrowing the Kingdom of Heaven and establishing the Republic of Heaven...it tickles me.

Incidentally, I dog-eared a page in chapter 34 on which a character muses, "This was the very thing she'd told Will about when he asked if she missed God: it was the sense that the whole universe was alive, and that everything was connected to everything else by threads of meaning. When she'd been a Christian, she had felt connected, too; but when she left the Church, she felt loose and free and light, in a universe without purpose....and it was plain that everything was throbbing with purpose and meaning, but she was cut off from it. And it was impossible to find a connection, because there was no God."

Very shortly thereafter that character does find a connection to the universe without God; I folded the page down because it was so much the opposite of my experience. When I "left the church," it was because I felt cut off from the universe--a universe that seemed alive and interconnected--by the image of God I'd been given. Only after I dropped that image of God did I feel able to be connected to the universe. As a Christian, I'd felt afraid of so much of the universe--afraid that liking something too much would be sinful, afraid that the very act of experiencing some aspects of reality would make God angry, or sad, or something. So I'd tiptoed through the living, roiling, throbbing universe, keeping my head down and my hands over my ears so as not to tempt myself to enjoy it too much.

And then I thought, why is it here, then? Why set up this gorgeous, complicated, heartbreaking reality if it's only to be crept through as blindly as possible? What is it for if not to dance in? I would rather, I thought, spend my life (the only blip of existence that I am certain of having) bathing in this wild reality, wallowing in it wholeheartedly, than timorously shielding myself from it all the days of my life.

I'm still working on the wallowing. Hence, the book project. If I am fortunate and have fifty more years alive in this messy lovely world, and I read only fifty books a year, then I will be able to read 2,500 more books in my lifetime. A mere drop in the bucket when you think of all the books in all the libraries and bookstores of the world, crying out for readers. If I don't dive in and greedily drink down as many of them as possible in the time alloted me, then I will truly have a reason for shame.