Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a delightful children’s book written by Booker Prize winning author, Salman Rushdie.

from the publisher:

Set in an exotic Eastern landscape peopled by magicians and fantastic talking animals, Salman Rushdie’s classic children’s novel Haroun and the Sea of Stories inhabits the same imaginative space as The Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist, and The Wizard of Oz. In this captivating work of fantasy from the author of Midnight’s Childrenand The Enchantress of Florence, Haroun sets out on an adventure to restore the poisoned source of the sea of stories. On the way, he encounters many foes, all intent on draining the sea of all its storytelling powers.

Haroun’s father, Rashid, was a master storyteller and his stories were much in demand by everyone, but especially by politicians. One day, however, his wife left him for a man with no imagination at all, and Haroun, angry and upset about his mother leaving them, shouted to his father, “What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” From that moment on, Rashid’s stories disappeared.

Haroun wanted to get those words back, to pull them out of his father’s ears and shove them back into his own mouth; but of course he couldn’t do that. And that was why he blamed himself when, soon afterwards and in the most embarrassing circumstances imaginable, an Unthinkable Thing happened.

And from that moment on…Haroun seeks a way to find out what happened to those stories, and how to get them back from the Sea of Stories. Adventure after adventure follows.

One of my favorite quotes from the book:

He looked into the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like aliquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity; and Iff explained that these were the Streams of Story, that each coloured strand represented and contained a single tale. Different parts of the Ocean contained different sorts of stories, and as all the stories that had ever been told and many that were still in the process of being invented could be found here, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was in fact the biggest library in the universe. And because the stories were held here in fluid form, they retained the ability to change, to become new versions of themselves, to join up with other stories and so become yet other stories; so that unlike a library of books, the Ocean of the Streams of Story was much more than a storeroom of yarns. It was not dead, but alive.

This book is a delight to read! The word play and the language of it all are brilliant and fun. I don’t know when I’ve enjoyed a story more and laughed out loud at so many puns and clever ways of describing things. I hope my son will read it aloud to our grandboy because I know they’d both love it.

Salman Rushdie dedicated this book to one of his sons after being apart for a long period of time. He also wrote Luka and the Fire of Life, and dedicated that book to his other son. I can’t wait to read that one next!

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Set Aside For Now

On my Goodreads page, I have a category called “Set Aside For Now.” I sometimes start a book only to discover that it is not the right book for me or not the right time for me to be reading that book. I give it a good try and then move it into that category, without guilt. Later, I’ve given numerous set-asides another try and really enjoyed them. Some languish in that category for years before I give them another try or pronounce them a DNF.

This week I moved a book into that category. I love the books of D.E. Stevenson, in particular her “Miss Bunkle” books. I started the first book in her “Drumberley” series, Vittoria Cottage, and was enjoying it until some wording hit me hard. She started using the “N” word in conversations, and it stopped me.

I have read many books in which that word comes up, but this time it hit me harder. In the last few years, and on a daily basis, we have been inundated with blatant racism, misogyny, cruelty, bullying, unfairness, and manipulation in our daily lives through both news and personal encounters. I do not accept these encounters silently now, for there is too much at stake.

So I set that book aside for now…until I can put that part of the story into the historical/cultural context of the time, understand better the life of the author, and/or until I decide that the book is worthy of my time and emotional energy.

I am not trying to “escape” in my reading these days. I take on some pretty serious subjects, but I am very aware of my emotional vulnerabilities and the overwhelming amount of daily exposure to the negatives in life. I am trying to be more mindful in my choices…to choose things to read that honor the goodness, the strength, the resilience of the human spirit. To choose things to read that are beautifully written, especially if the subject is a difficult one. And to choose my “entertainments,” as Graham Greene called his own books, with care.

 

The Compliment of a Lifetime

There are times when I really miss spending my days with school children. When I first started teaching, one of my wise teammates suggested that I keep a file in my desk drawer to keep the nice notes and cards from students and parents over the years. I took her advice and still have that treasured file, even though I’ve been retired for five years. While I was going through a box of my old teaching materials the other day, looking for something for my grandson, I pulled that file out and reread some of those notes and best wishes. One stood out for me and felt like the “compliment of a lifetime.” It had to do with reading aloud with my students, something that was the anchor of my day with all the different groups of children I worked with over my twenty-seven year career. A mom wrote it to me toward the end of a school year, just a short note on a nice little card, and it still warms my heart.

Since my daughter is going to miss reading books with you more than anything else in her school life so far — would you have any recommendations for summer reading, books you wish you would have had more time to read with the class?

Emmie gave her Dad a copy of “Danny Champion of the World” for his birthday, because it was so good she wanted to read it with him!!

Ikiru

“Ikiru,” in Japanese, means a number of different things:

  1. to live; to exist
  2. to make a living; to subsist
  3. to be in effect; to be in use; to function
  4. to come to life; to be enlivened
  5. to be safe (in baseball, go, etc.)

The film IKIRU, directed by Akira Kurosawa and released in 1952, is a classic of Japanese film. It is a heartwarming and heart wrenching story of a bureaucrat in Tokyo, a man whose days are always the same, full of endless piles of paper essentially “signifying nothing.”  He finds out one day that he has terminal cancer and less than a year to live. His world is instantly upended, and over the next few months, he goes through all the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance — and finally finds a way to do something meaningful with the time he has remaining in his life.

It’s a very moving story, and expresses all the different meanings of the word “Ikiru,” especially the fourth definition, to learn to live!  I’ve watched it numerous times over the years, and it is one of my favorite movies. I highly recommend it.


I watched this film as part of the Japanese Literature 12 Challenge, hosted by Meredith at Dolce Bellezza.

Goodbye, Mary

Mary Oliver

It is with great sadness this morning that I say goodbye to one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. I heard the news of her passing just a moment ago, and I can’t believe her voice is now silent. We will miss you terribly, Mary, but your poems will live on in our hearts. Thank you for what you did with your one wild and precious life, and for all the beautiful poetry you shared with us.

Just Finished: The Janus Stone

I just finished reading the second book in the Ruth Galloway Mysteries, by Elly Griffiths. Dr. Ruth Galloway is an archaeologist, very bright, insightful, and independent. Because of her unique forensic skills, she is called on (as she was in the first book of the series) to help D.C.I. Harry Nelson solve a police investigation of a murder.

Summary from the Elly Griffiths website:

Dr Ruth Galloway’s forensic skills are called upon when builders, demolishing an old house in Norwich, uncover the bones of a child – minus the skull – beneath a doorway. Is it some ritual sacrifice or just plain straightforward murder? Ruth links up with DCI Harry Nelson to investigate.

The house was once a children’s home. Nelson traces the Catholic priest who used to run the place. He tells him that two children did go missing forty years before – a boy and a girl. They were never found.

When carbon dating proves that the child’s bones predate the home and relate to a time when the house was privately owned, Ruth is drawn ever more deeply into the case. But as spring turns into summer it becomes clear that someone is trying hard to put her off the scent by frightening her to death…

My review?  I simply couldn’t put this book down! Judging by this second book, I think this series gets better and better with each book!

The Red Pony

The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck, is a novella in four stories about a young boy growing up on a ranch near Salinas, California. The boy, ten-year-old Jody Tiflin, lives with his father, a strict and harsh disciplinarian, and his mother, who is strong and understanding, and one ranch hand, Billy Buck.  All of them work hard to make a living from the ranch.  It is good, honest work, and they are good people, but life is harsh.

Although just a young adolescent, Jody has to grow up quickly. He has to carry his own weight in terms of chores and help on the ranch, and he is constantly learning. In the first story, he is given a beautiful red pony and it is his responsibility to care for her and keep her well and safe. He relies on Billy Buck to guide him and teach him everything he needs to know about his pony. One day, when Jody has to be in school all day, Billy Buck tells him that he can let the horse stay out in the field for the day. Jody questions him about the weather because the pony shouldn’t be outside in the rain. Billy reassures him that it won’t rain. Unfortunately, it does rain and after spending most of the day outside in the elements, the horse gets sick.

Jody must face life’s challenges head on, but he is resilient, imaginative, and still very much a young boy (collecting frogs on his way home from school and putting them in his lunchbox, to the dismay of his mother). When his grandfather comes to visit, his imagination is captured by the stories he tells Jody of leading a wagon train westward.

Jody lay in his bed and thought of the impossible world of Indians and buffaloes, a world that had ceased to be forever. He wished he could have been living in the heroic time, but he knew he was not of heroic timber. No one living now, save possibly Billy Buck, was worthy to do the things that had been done. A race of giants had lived then, fearless men, men of a staunchness unknown in this day. Jody thought of the wide plains and of the wagons moving across like centipedes. He thought of Grandfather on a huge white horse, marshaling the people. Across his mind marched the great phantoms, and they marched off the earth and they were gone.

Although I read this book a long time ago, this re-read was like reading it for the first time. I remembered that it was sad, and that it wasn’t a children’s story. But I hadn’t remembered how beautifully written it was, and that John Steinbeck was an extraordinary storyteller. I must revisit more of his books!

 

I read this book as part of my year-long celebration of turning 70 years old. The movie version of this book was released in 1949, my birth year.

 

 

I also read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.