Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Water for Elephants

by Sara Gruen

Started: 28 August 2007
Finished: 29 August 2007

It's been a long time since I've read a novel in two days. I must confess it's kind of fun and feels a little decadent. If I did it all the time, it wouldn't be so enjoyable...not that it would even be feasible. In fact, if I didn't have a four day week-end coming up there's no way I could have managed it. But I've been rereading so many books recently, I decided it was time to branch out a bit and try something a little different...a new author...a book I knew nothing about and something which has been written and published recently.

My Bookmaster's Book Club will be reading Water for Elephants the first two weeks of September. Not wanting to take my chances on buying it, I requested it from the library, got it last night and haven't been able to put it down since.

Not that it's great fiction per se--just a fascinating and well-told story. Ms. Gruen has done an exceptional job researching the old train circuses of the early 1930s. The story is told from the perspective of 93 year-old Jacob Jankowski, currently residing--very unhappily I might add--in a senior citizen center. Jacob recalls the events that led him to the circus train of the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

For the remainder of the book, the plot unfolds, alternating between the two very different time frames and settings: 1931 circus life and present day resident care. Gradually we come to know the economic realities of that long ago era and how the Great Depression and Prohibition affected both people and animals who rode the rails. In particular, we meet an extraordinary elephant named, Rosie, who is supposed to be the salvation of her company, but frequently seems to be their curse and downfall. Jacob's job and future depend on solving the mystery of how to get Rosie to perform, so that she can begin to pay her way before she eats everyone, including herself, into bankruptcy and ruin.

While the action of 1931 was certainly faster, I found the aged Jacob's wisdom and wry observations an ironic and interesting interlude.

A few of his sage observations, some sombre, all poignant, are...

"Age is a terrible thief. Just when you're getting the hang of life, it knocks your legs out from under you and stoops your back."

"So what if I'm ninety-three? So what if I'm ancient and cranky and my body's a wreck? If they're willing to accept me and my guilty conscience, why the hell shouldn't I run away with the circus?"

"....and open my vanity mirror. I should know better by now, but somehow I still expect to see myself. Instead I find an Appalachian apple doll, withered and spotty, with dewlaps and bags and large floppy ears....It's no good. Even when I look straight into the milky blue eyes, I can't find myself anymore. When did I stop being me?"

"Although there are times I'd give anything to have her* back, I'm glad she went first. Losing her was like being cleft down the middle. it was the moment it all ended for me, and I wouldn't have wanted her to go through that. Being the survivor stinks."

* Jacob remembering his wife.

Overall assessment: interesting and very different; not bad. Loved the knowledge and appreciation of animals and the sensitivity Ms. Gruen demonstrated for her elderly Jacob. Probably won't read this book again. Contains violence, profanity and adult themes, most of which was unnecessary. Story would have been much better without.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Separate Peace (RR)

by John Knowles

Started: 19 August 2007
Finished: 27 August 2007

This is at least my third time reading this juvenile classic. I even hesitate classifying this profound work of fiction as 'juvenile'. Much popular fiction which passes for 'adult' these days doesn't come close to being so thought-provoking and unforgettable as A Separate Peace manages to be in a scant 204 pages.

It's a story about friendship and war--and the wars of friendship and the effects of war on friendship. Sometimes the duel themes are so intricately interwoven as to be nearly impossible to detangle, much less identify one from the other. At the heart of the story is the magical and once-in-a-lifetime friendship between two young boys, Gene, the narrator of the story, and Phineas, a charismatic enigma, both on the threshold of manhood during the summer of 1942.

As in all relationships, but especially in close 'best friendships' such as this one between Gene and Phineas, feelings and motives are not always clear from one moment to the next. Sometimes love and hate are opposite sides of the same coin, as are admiration and envy. Without giving away the ending, there is an accident that summer of '42 involving both of the boys--one as the victim and the other as the perpetrator. It happens in a split second, without malice or premeditation, yet the repercussions are to echo down the years.

It's a beautiful, haunting story which deals with the timeless questions which plague all intimate relationships. I don't think it's possible to read A Separate Peace and not be deeply moved by it. As a young person I didn't begin to appreciate its rich complexity, penetrating wisdom, nor even its bittersweet simplicity though I remember how long the book stayed with me after I finished it. Returning to it for the second time as an adult, I find myself still touched, but also awed and even . . . strangely reassured. Read it!


Monday, August 27, 2007

The Ears of the Heart

On the 18th of August I attended the Annual Retreat Day at Mercy Health Center sponsored by the Sisters of Benedict. Our guest speaker for the workshop was Joan Marie Sasse, O.S.B. She is a Master Time Line Therapy Practitioner and a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming or NLP. She hails from Holy Spirit Monastery in California.

The following were some of the topics she covered during the course of our four hour retreat:

- Our Lord told us we would do greater things even than He did. (Sister did not give a Scripture reference for this and so far I've been unable to locate exactly where Jesus says this although I do recall that He did.) Note: "Hermeneutics" means to take something out of its cultural context.

-- How is that possible? Is it? Was He kidding? Do we have any reason, i.e., Scriptural reference, for thinking this has ever happened?

-- Yes! Jesus cured with his hands, spit and various other means.

-- However, Peter cured when his shadow passed over the sick.

-- How did that happen then? Can it still happen? Yes!

- Kirlian Photography: supposedly a camera that takes a picture of the energy field around your body. However, when I looked this up myself, I found a different interpretation/explanation. The following is taken from Wikipedia: Kirlian photography is completely different from "Aura photography," in which a colorful image is produced of a persons face and upper torso, using various methods of biofeedback. People commonly use the term "Kirlian photography" to erroneously refer to "Aura photography," and vice-versa. The terms have almost become interchangeable, even though the techniques are completely different. This leads to confusion among those who not familiar with the two different techniques. The Kirlian technique is contact photography, in which the subject is in direct contact with the film which is placed upon a metal plate that is charged with high voltage, high frequency electricity. In Aura Photography, no high voltage is involved as with the Kirlian technique, and no direct contact with the film is made. The images made with an Aura camera do not result from coronal discharge, the colors are projected with fiber optics.

- Concept of Non-Locality: our thoughts are not limited to where we are.

- Concept of Leakiness: we used to think of our bodies as encapsulated, but actually we are leaky. We are always taking in and giving off energy.

- Study in Chicago: crime dropped 29-49% due to prayers of the community.

- "They came together and they were of one mind and one heart..."

- There are usually 80 murders @ day in Los Angeles.

-- On 2 (known) occasions the murders stopped,

-- when the Pope came and when the Olympics were hosted.

-- During those times, the positive energy of the world was focused on L.A.

- Newtonian Physics v. Quantum Physics:

-- Newton's view of things and the historic view of the world is that everything is solid mass.

-- Quantum Physics taught us that everything is made of energy.

--- In the 1940's we learned that everything is fluid.

--- People are still trying to absorb this concept. The world around us looks solid.

--- Energy deals with probability; different choices make different things happen.

--- Rock is dense energy; water is higher energy so it will eventually break down rock.

--- Water will change rock but not the other way around.

--- Sun is higher energy still, so it can transform water, but not the other way around.

- Thought and Light are the highest forms of energy.

- Clayton Balboa and Jose Silva

-- (Note: I was unable to locate any information on Mr. Balboa. Whether it was due to my spelling of his name in my notes or his own obscurity, I do not know. I still include him because Sister spoke so highly of him.)

-- José Silva (August 11, 1914 - February 7, 1999) was a parapsychologist and author of the Silva Method and the Silva UltraMind ESP System, intended to help people increase their IQ, develop psychic skills, and to develop the ability to heal both themselves and others remotely, using forces unknown to science.

- Stages of Evolution - as they have occurred, there has been a rapid increase in acceleration
-- Biological - millions of years

-- Agricultural - tens of thousands of years

-- Industrial - hundreds of years

-- Informational - twenty years

-- Spiritual - ???

- We have more information today in our Sunday paper than was available in all the 1700's!

- So how can we deal with this Information Explosion?

-- Have a mental breakdown.

-- Create or sustain an addiction. (Basically you're living on auto-pilot.)

-- Commit suicide.

-- Learn to meditate. Learn to live from the inside out.

- Become 'Self-referral' people, rather than 'Outer-referral' people.

- God is the energy holding us together.

-- Sister said she stopped dieting when she realized that if God was in her very cells--the more of her there was, the more of God there was!

- Energy has a magnetic quality; it's called The Law of Attraction.

-- Like Energy attracts Like Energy.

- The Law of Energy states: what you focus on you are going to get more of.

-- You get work, because you give work. You cannot receive, if you do not give.

- Stress: the reason we experience stress is because:

-- 'they' are not doing it 'our' way. If only they would... (or)

-- we are living in the past or the future--2 things/places which don't exist.

--- the past is gone forever.

--- the future may never happen.

- We only remember things which make us angry or sad. How often do we say, "The more I think about that, the madder I get!"?

-- When we get angry, we stop breathing. Not Good!

-- Not breathing breaks down our system.

- Stanford Experiment: Took 30 people and had them think about something which made them furious. Let them think about it for awhile and get good and angry. Then took a vial of blood from each person and injected it into 30 rats who died almost instantly.

-- Performed almost the same experiment using Cancer and Aides patients and the rats lived for 2 months!

-- Shows that our anger is more lethal than Cancer or Aides...well at least for rats.

- We don't hurt the person we're angry with--we hurt ourselves.

- People who upset us the most are really our greatest blessings.

-- Every person we meet holds a mirror up to us.

- When someone upsets me:

-- Take a deep breath and remember they are the mail carrier. They are bringing me a message about myself.

-- Figure out what that message is. Learn from it. Forgive yourself.

-- Fill that person with the Light of Christ.

-- Turn the entire situation over to the Christ within and Go Free!

- Slotha: the Aramaic word Jesus used when talking about prayer.

-- It means literally, 'to set a trap'.

-- An old nun said our modern way of endless prayer petitions was silly. The way she prayed exemplified 'slotha'. She'd ask God a question and then listen all the rest of the day for His answer--when she read the paper, did her chores, talked to anyone, etc. She was always listening and looking for God's answer--waiting expectantly, sure He was going to send her an answer if she was alert for it. In other words, the old nun 'set a trap' for God.

- Jesus was never disconnected from The Father. He and The Father were One!

-- He always wanted what God wanted. Do we?

-- Energy follows belief!

- Going to church is a time to give thanks for what we already have ~~ especially Our Faith!

- Jesus NEVER said, "You were cured by my power and marvelous technique!"

-- Rather, He said, "Your FAITH has cured/saved you!"

-- Our Faith is a Great Gift--perhaps our greatest!

- Richard Bandler: it's the message(s) in our head which makes us happy/sad, angry/loving.

- Techniques for dealing with people who have yelled at you and made you feel like a victim:

-- Change them into Donald Duck.

-- Shrink them down to the size of a postage stamp.

- Books for further study: Using Your Brain for a Change, From Frogs into Princes, and Change Your Mind and Keep the Change.

- Dr. David Hawkins: a nationally renowned psychiatrist, physician, researcher and lecturer, as his listing in Who's Who in America amply attests. He has been a guest of MacNeil/Lehrer, Barbara Walters and The Today Show. His previous book, Orthomolecular Psychiatry, co-authored with Nobelist Linus Pauling, sold out completely. By the end of 1995, word-of mouth sales of POWER vs. FORCE were increasing by ten per cent a week.

-- Developed a personal energy chart--from 20 to 1000.

-- A score below 200 indicates helplessness and the inability to tell lies from truth.

-- 87% of people score below 200.

-- The recent tsunami elevated the energy of the entire world because of people reaching out to help one another.

-- Hurricane Katrina did not because of the blame and criticism.

- The difference between Buddha and Jesus:

-- Buddha only wanted to work with those scoring 200 and above.

-- Jesus came for all people. He wants to help elevate the energy of everyone.

- Compliment yourself on what you have done, even if it's only that you kept breathing.

-- Focus on what's right about yourself and others.

-- Cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

--- Every day for 30 days write what you are truly grateful for.

- Jesus said, "I came that you may have Joy and Peace!"

- We co-create with God through our thoughts!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Celebration of Discipline (RR)

by Richard J. Foster

Started: 20 July 2007
Finished: 23 August 2007

This was at least my second reading of Celebration, possibly my third or fourth, I'm not quite sure. I just remember that when I listened to it before--and I suppose that listening to books-on-tape counts as reading--I was so struck by it as to re listen to most of the tapes several times, which I did again on this go through. Yes, I listened to it again, but I also bought myself a hardback copy (a luxury I don't usually allow myself anymore) because there were so many good quotes and passages that I wanted to see as well as hear, and refer to in between listening experiences. Yes, there will be more! Read on.

Lately I've resumed an old habit of listening to inspirational literature in the car. Unlike the rest of my family, who listen to the radio while driving or riding, I usually prefer silence--a habit learned at the knees of Mr. Foster and other spiritual guides in years gone by. But I suppose it's okay to break the silence now and again with something uplifting and reflectional, something which will fill my mind with the right sorts of things to meditate on in the silence.

Mr. Foster is a Quaker, or a Friend. But more than that, he is a generous and true Christian. He exemplifies the Christian spirit in his writings; when you read his words they reach out and touch your very soul. You know that he knows what he's talking about. He draws from all Christian spiritual traditions and even from a few non-Christian sources. He is interested in what is True--wherever it seems to come from--it really comes from God.

A favorite priest of mine, Father Benedict Groeschel, said that if he couldn't be Catholic, he'd be a Quaker. I'm inclined to agree with him, if Mr. Foster is any indication of the stuff of which Quakers are made.

In Celebration, Foster teaches or explores the classic "Disciplines" or central practices of the Christian faith. He does this by grouping them into three basic 'movements of the spirit': the inward, the outward, and the corporate. The individual Disciplines are as follows: (inward) meditation, prayer, fasting, study, (outward) simplicity, solitude, submission, service (corporate) confession, worship, guidance, and celebration. For each Discipline, he provides a description of its use and purpose, Biblical and historical background, guidelines for implementation, and a myriad of supporting quotes and references.

I found his grouping system especially interesting. Like all the great saints, he recognizes the absolute necessity of beginning the spiritual journey with oneself, or 'self-work'. We must begin with our internal work and work our way out. How many times have I promised myself I'd start meditation and stick with it, yet failed to follow through on that basic promise to myself?

His recommendations and guidance ring true because of his frequent references to his own spiritual journey and the times he has failed, which make him a creditable and very companionable mentor. Yet, like my own spiritual director, he is quite clear that it is the Holy Spirit alone who is the only real Spiritual Director. All others who provide that service do so in His name.

There are so many things I'd like to quote or reference from Mr. Foster's book, and maybe someday I will, but for now I'll just comment on something which struck me in this reading, and that was the Discipline of Solitude. Interestingly enough, Foster classifies Solitude as an outward movement. Most people I suspect, myself included, would probably think of Solitude as an inward Discipline. But on further or deeper reflection, a central tenet of the spiritual life, it becomes obvious that Solitude is a state of mind (and heart) which ones chooses, i.e., we choose to view and interact with the world from this perspective. Going hand in hand with Solitude is Silence. Foster says he struggled to decide which he should name this Discipline--Solitude or Silence, but eventually settled on the former.

"Settle yourself in solitude and you will come upon Him in yourself." ~~Teresa of Avila

And Mr. Foster says, "Jesus calls us from loneliness to solitude....We can cultivate an inner solitude and silence that sets us free from loneliness and fear. Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment."

Just a taste of the pearls contained in that gem of a book. I'm including it on a new list I'll be starting very soon--"Books to Read Over and Over and Over and . . ." Yes, it's THAT good! My only regret is that I've finished it...for now.


Monday, August 20, 2007

Night (RR)

by Elie Wiesel

Started: 16 August 2007
Finished: 19 August 2007

Maybe someday when I go back through my old book logs I'll discover when I first read Night. It was a long time ago, that's all I remember. So long ago, I can't even recall who recommended it or why I read it. I do remember feeling disappointed by it. Not that Mr. Wiesel isn't an excellent author. Nor that he doesn't do a memorable job describing his horrific experiences as a young man in several Nazi concentration camps.

But as a work of Literature, it is not strictly speaking a diary nor an autobiography. Nor is it detailed like a work of sociological research. There is a starkness in his writing. An abruptness of style, which perhaps is suited to the subject matter in question. It is also a very short work. The first time I read it, I believe I finished it in two sittings; it can be finished in one by an extremely fast reader. This reading took me longer due to my current schedule.

The New York Times calls it, "A slim volume of terrifying power," and who am I to question the New York Times? It's also a winner of The Nobel Peace Prize--and with good reason. It's the story of abuse, racial hatred, and unspeakable crimes committed against men, women and children. It's an ugly story, but one which must be told and kept alive. It's a mission which Mr. Wiesel has made his life's work ever since World War II. He claims to have lost his faith in God as a result of what he saw in Auschwitz--yet he has devoted the rest of his life to serving his fellow human beings. I think Jesus would say our author is like the son in the Gospel story who told his father, "No!" yet went ahead and did his what his father told him to do.

So, with all this, why was I disappointed in my first reading of Night? Only because I wanted to know more. Because what the author included was so tantalizing, so moving, so riveting, that it seemed like what it was--just the tip of the iceberg. If this is what he included, what about all the rest? And then what happened? I was much younger then and had still not fully realized the extent of man's capacity for inhumanity to his fellow creatures.

And this time around? Was I still disappointed? No, not at all. It was perfect--in every respect. Since my first reading, I have read other books on the Holocaust and learned many of the grim 'details' I was seeking previously.

My oldest daughter is reading Night for her 10th grade English II class. That's what prompted me to get out the book, dust off its cover and give it another try. I'm certainly glad that I did. It's even more poignant with subsequent readings.
Most highly recommended! *****

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy Birthday, Little Brother

Today my mind and heart run very much back in those days I spent with you, Little Brother. I made my first cheesecake while I have been reflecting on those bittersweet memories. Wonder of wonders, it came out beautifully! Mostly, if I could visit with you today, I think I'd ask you a lot of questions--things I never thought to ask you while you were alive and I expected we'd have endless days together. Questions like: which do you prefer, sunset or sunrise? Do you remember your first kiss? Was it magic? What was your happiest memory? Your favorite food? Movie? Book? Just talking about any one of those would keep us busy for hours, wouldn't it? Remember how we could talk? I don't think I ever knew another man I could talk to as easily or as long as I could talk to you, Mike. I miss our talks! I'll never forget that last marathon talk we had--walking around a mall that June when I was pregnant with Meggie. I don't know how many times we went around before I begged you to sit down. And then we still sat and talked some more. I can still see you coming down the hall the next day to say "Good-bye" before you left on your float trip. I can see you 4 months later after Meggie was born. At least you saw her -- once -- before you died. And I saw you that one last time at Mom and Dad's house. You were very quiet that night. You always were quiet in groups; you only opened up when it was just the two of us.

You are a kindred spirit, Mike, and there aren't many of those.

Here are some of my collected memories of you....tiny baby...little boys are different...sunken the hospital for surgery...blood everywhere...bloody bandages...cutting proud flesh...watching Mom and Dad treat you made me never cried...wanting to touch hold you...growing little boy...riding his tricycle...freckles on his nose...y-shaped scar on his chest...underweight...quiet little boy...sweet smile...shy...sandy hair...young skinny...Mom fed you shakes trying to make you gain weight...always wore a t-shirt to cover the scar...loved boats...and books...Daddy's helper...loved to make and build...built a boat...took it to the leaked but it still floated...learned your bad words from Dad...beginning to grow up...and experiment...mistakes...and changing...graduation from high school...Navy...Florida...visit your oldest sister in Homestead...Chicago and Idaho...Bremerton...a special truck...ships and submarines...Air Force verses Navy officers...Mom and Dad's 25th wedding were the big surprise...they didn't know you were coming...your joke about Rod being like Dad...your plans to come to England...letters...a special book gift...getting out of the Navy...going to and old friends...Rolla...helping Mom and Dad move...and fix up their new guru, home...will you be the godfather for my new baby?...our last long walk and talk...float trip...telephone call...why does everyone try to tell you that you don't mean what you say?...last time I saw weren't there...went looking for you...never found you...never found out where you were or why you didn't come...left for Louisiana the next day...2 days later I learned you were dead...

Happy Birthday, Little Brother! I do not know why your life had to end so soon, but I have accepted it. I rarely cry now when I think of you. Instead I get a sweet, happy feeling about a life transformed. I used to think you 'missed' out on so much--marriage, children, a career, travel, etc. Now, instead, I think that -- for whatever reason -- God just graduated you early. Whatever joys we know here are not denied in the next life, they are multiplied and magnified. You are happy--especially when we strive to be happy for you.

Today, I made my first cheesecake. It came out perfectly. Tonight I'll share it with your brother-in-law and your two nieces, who are also your goddaughter and your namesake. Happy Birthday, Little Brother!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

An Ancient Castle

by Robert Graves

Started: 13 August 2007
Finished: 15 August 2007

I've always loved castles. When I lived in England, one of my favorite things to do was to go "castle-hunting". The way you hunt castles is to get yourself a really good map which shows all the most obscure castle ruins and tiniest cow paths and farm roads leading to them, and then figure out which route will allow you to see the most castles in a given area. It's best if you can take a few days, or even a week and to find a corner of the United Kingdom which is liberally sprinkled with old castles. My own personal favorite place for castle-hunting is Wales--which also happens to be the setting for this book.

Better known for I, Claudius and his autobiography about World War 1, Good-Bye to All That, Robert Graves wrote An Ancient Castle in the early 1930s and then apparently abandoned the work where it lay untouched until his death. Although considered a work for children, it's not the sort of fiction which would appeal to many children today, mostly because it requires a bit of imagination. Nor should it be considered -- and dismissed -- as simply children's literature. Too many good stories are consigned to sit on the shelves, ignored by adults and youth alike, because each considers the piece of work more appropriate for the other. A shame and a waste.

In An Ancient Castle, there is, of course, an ancient castle, and a boy and girl, several adults and their controversy, plus a mystery and an exciting discovery. It's a quaint, old-fashioned story; because of this, it reminds me of my childhood and some of the books I used to read then. Times were slower and books were a reflection of the time.

And it reminds me of castle-hunting in Wales. Driving along a single lane between two hedgerows, not sure where I was going, late in the afternoon, cresting a hill and then sighting it off in the distance sitting atop a hill, my ancient castle.
Highly Recommended! ***1/2

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Name All the Animals

by Alison Smith

Started: 31 July 2007
Finished: 12 August 2007

I purchased this book because of Mike, my only brother, whose 45th birthday would be this week, that is--if he hadn't died in 1991--just after his 29th birthday.

From the cover synopsis, "Name all the Animals," seemed to be a story about a sister who had lost her brother -- as I have done -- and then come to terms with her loss, moving from grief back into life and love. Or so I thought. But I suppose I should have known that each person's story is unique and therefore, their journey through such things will also be unique. I just never expected to find so much that was so different, while at the same time seeing strange patterns of overlap.

It is a hauntingly beautiful story. Sad and happy but not in the way the author intends perhaps. To me, it was sad because her brother's death caused her to lose her faith in God. For me it was just the opposite. I rediscovered God when Mike died.

Still I liked that the book dealt with sibling grief. As Ms. Smith says in an interview at the end of the book, "Sibling grief is overlooked in our culture. When a child dies, we look to the parents. They are the center stage of the tragedy. If siblings are noticed at all, it is only as an extension of the parents. They are told that they must make up for the lost child, they must look after the parents."

The author does a beautiful job describing herself objectively and those around her as they struggle on in the aftermath of the years following her brother, Roy's death at 18.

I recommend this book with reservations; it deals with mature themes and should not be read by children or adolescents.


Sunday, August 5, 2007

A Room With a View (RR)

by E.M.Forster

Started: 2 August 2007
Finished: 5 August 2007

Unfortunately, I didn't record my first journey down the Arno with Lucy Honeychurch and her spinster cousin, Charlotte Bartlett. All I know is that it was some years ago and I enjoyed it immensely. Of course, I'm speaking metaphorically; I'm really referring to my first reading of the most humorous of Mr. Forster's main novels. My Forster anthology is heavily highlighted, reminiscent of those days when I color-coded my book defacings according to some mysterious system lost to time. I devoured A Room With a View, Howard's End and A Passage to India all in fairly quick succession.

A Room With A View is one of my all-time favorites stories. It was for that reason I gave it to a dear friend for her birthday.

There are many things I like about Room: the lavish settings, clever dialogue, humorous characters and nostalgic simplicity. But I really like the title of the book and I think Forster was inspired in his choice.

Initially, it seems to refer to a silly dispute in the opening chapter of the book; a misunderstanding over a social convention of the day. Were the ladies -- Lucy and Charlotte, traveling in Florence at the turn of the 20th century -- allowed to accept rooms from gentlemen they hardly knew? Can they obtain a 'room with a view' because 'ladies like views and men don't care about them?' But in actuality, I believe that situation to be an entertaining representation of our creative author's true motive behind his choice of title; the story's title really pertains to perspective and allowing ourselves perspective in life, or a wider view. Perhaps in some cases, simply opening ones' eyes in the first place.

Sometimes all we need do to obtain this wider view is get the right room. Other times, we need something more. An artist or photographer will tell you that you need the right vantage point to show a certain subject to it's best advantage. An author would say you need sufficient background information.

Lucy could be seen best in her music; it brought her alive. George, I believe, needs to be seen from the perspective of the unconventional pilgrim; he's a Don Quixote--eccentric, free and full of simple love. Charlotte -- well, if I tell you how Charlotte can be understood -- I shall give away the end of the story, which should not be spoiled.

As for me, well if anyone ever cares to know or understand me, they must share my stories. Without them, they will never see me in perspective.

I believe that many things -- almost all the most important things in fact -- can never be said in the dry, flat words of non-fiction, except occasionally in reflections on biography, or a full life. That is why stories are written--to explain and express the ineffable. And classic stories like Room do it best. They aren't the easiest books to read; they require effort. But then so does anything really worthwhile.

A favorite saying of mine is, "A house without books is like a room without windows." Forster, wants us to value a wider view--to desire our rooms to have views, or if we don't, at least to allow them for those who do.

My hope is that someday my friend will read this book -- and the other books I have given her -- if for no other reason than because she desires her room to have a view on mine.

The Highest Rating! *****