Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Two books, two ways to read and write

Do you ever enjoy and care about characters in a book of fiction that when the book ends you want to follow them further, to know what happens in the rest of their life? I do too.

Ken Follett has a solution, at least for me. In his recent fictional history World Without End he did it again. He made the personalities and the lives of the characters in the book so memorable that I wanted to follow their lives further. This historical fiction takes place in the middle 1300s in the English town of Kingsbridge. The monks and nuns own the cathedral. The earls own their serfs. Power and hierarchy seem to invade everyone’s lives. Freedom as we know it does not yet exist.

In World Without End the question, “What happens after they barely survived through that situation?” is answered again and again. Instead of one book, this volume is more like seven books in one. We follow the lives of some of the characters from children through to old age. The story and history keeps evolving.

The only negative for me about Follett’s World Without End is that is more than 1000 pages in length and even in paperback it is a heavy book. I found that resting the book on my lap on top of a throw pillow from the couch helped keep the book high enough to read without having to hold it up on my own.

The other way to read a good book of course is to read it a second time. That is what I plan to do with Barbara Brown Taylor’s most recent book, An Altar in the World. It is my Lenten luncheon reading discipline. As a Lenten “discipline” I get off easy with this one because Taylor writes so well. I keep finding pages or paragraphs that I want to share with specific other people. I know that when I finish this book that I will want to read it again so that I can enjoy and be stimulated by her thoughts and descriptions of how we live our lives and where God is as we live in our pain, suffering, beautiful landscapes and seascapes, and in our friends, relatives, and strangers. I don’t expect to wait until next Lent to pick up this book again and read it.

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