Hurray! I have read 6 of my 12 Books 12 Months list. And with this book I am fully appreciating the benefits of the 12 Books 12 Months idea because without it, I would most likely have gotten lost on reading tangents about sci-fi Jesuits, emotional food, and teenage demi-gods. And I would completely forget about all these books that the Sara from 6 months ago wanted to read. With the 12 Books list and the brilliant monthly summaries from E on latter day bohemian (I think those monthly round-ups really play an important role in motivation), I’ve managed to alternate between my whim readings and my planned readings – thus, moving ahead on some goals while also pursuing other spontaneous interests. It’s a really good feeling.
So even though I was very tempted to immediately jump into the sequel to the space traveling Jesuit story, I did myself a favor and picked up Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I had heard about this book at the ALA Conference this past summer in D.C. when I had the great privilege of seeing Salman Rushdie at an author talk. He was charming and intelligent, and his story about the beginnings of this book had me hooked.
This is a children’s book with some obvious, but playful, political messages. Rushdie wrote this just after the fatwa against his life was announced, wondering each day if he would see his son again, to whom the book is dedicated. So we get greasy politicians, evil tyrants, and egotistical princes. We also get some absolutely delightful bits — like the chapter headings: The Shah of Blah, An Iff and a Butt, and a wonderful nod to Beatles’ lyrics.
My timing in reading this book was good and bad. Bad – the pace and humor of a children’s book felt kind of jarring when I was in the middle of a stressful, high-stakes work week. Good – the pace and humor of a children’s book jarred me out of thinking about the stressful, high-stakes work week … for a few minutes at a time, at least.
I also had to rethink my reading style for this book. See, I’m anal. I know it. I admit it. I use folded sheets of paper as bookmarks so I can take notes while reading, and I even do this with fiction books. It’s a habit I developed after reading Susan Wise Bauer’s The Well-Educated Mind (very highly recommended as a book to own). I have a 3-ring binder full of old book notes from pre-grad school, and now a nice thick manilla folder of book notes post-grad school. But children’s books do not lend themselves to taking notes, at least not for me. I tried taking basic fiction notes at the beginning of the book — things like characters and place names — but finally I just put the pen down and read the book for the sake of reading. Pleasure reading. Personal pleasure reading.
This truly is the work of a storyteller. Sure, it might not be the best story in the world, or the most developed characters, or strongest plot, but it’s not supposed to be. This is a book that was meant to be read aloud at night to children, or read aloud to anyone who needs a distraction. And if you feel like being anal about it, well, read the short glossary at the end about the names in the book and then get on with the story.
“Believe in your own eyes and you’ll get into a lot of trouble, hot water, a mess…” — Iff, the Water Genie (p. 63)