Sunday, June 12, 2005

Vacation Reading Post Mortem

by Marjorie
I'm back from the beach -- we had a great time, I love Hilton Head, but its really nice to be home.

My husband's prediction was wrong, I was able to do quite a bit of reading. I don't read on the beach but I read back at the house and found plenty of snatches of time to finish two books (much of my reading was done during car rides). I read Prep and Lotus in the Fire.

I liked and didn't like Prep. I enjoyed entering the world of high school again. What I didn't like was the narrator, Lee. I didn't dislike Lee, I just didn't get her -- I knew I was in for a tough ride when she skipped the first dance of the school year. I love dances and went to as many as I could. I understood the awkwardness and social shyness of her for her first couple of years, but they grated on my in the second half of the book.

What I really didn't get was why she wanted to go to boarding school -- its explained in the book in drips and drabs but it didn't ring true for me -- she seemed to get along well enough with her parents and she kept hinting at her misery at school. Why didn't she just drop out and go to her local high school? The reasons given were unconvincing to me. But I'm a very different person from Lee, I'm not terribly extroverted, but more so than her, so maybe an introvert would really enjoy the book. What I found most disappointing about the story was that it didn't seem like there was anything positive about her boarding school experience -- it did not seem to catapult her into a different world, though it might have, she doesn't tell us much about her adult life though she does tell about what happened to some of the other characters. It just struck me as a lot of pain without any sort of pay-off. I hope someone comments on this, I'd love to read some comments by people who had a different take on her.

I liked Lotus in the Fire though the book was stilted. Its a spiritual autobiography about a man's ordeal with leukemia. I liked the way it gave me some background about Zen buddhism within the context of a story -- to me it was more digestible than to read a nonfiction book about Zen. I would like to have seen more things developed and more information given -- this man suffered a lot but his descriptions of the treatments and reactions were choppy, as were other mundane details that would have helped flesh out the story.

The discussion of suffering and its relationship to karma, particularly expiating of karma, was very interesting to me. I've yet to encounter a satisfactory answer to the question of why suffering occurs -- this is the closest I've gotten. The idea is that somewhere along the line, perhaps in past lives, you have done things that have resulted in the suffering you encounter in your present life; karma is the law of cause and effect. While this is a bit close to the idea that those who suffer deserve there suffering, I find it distinguishable because how can you control or even feel guilty for what you did in a past life? Of course, this presupposes a belief in reincarnation. I don't believe in reincarnation and I don't not believe in it. I just don't know what happens after we die and though some might seem quite certain of what happens, they don't know either.

Anyway, Zen buddhism, something to ponder, especially since I seem to have grown a bit tired of Christianity. No, I'm not converting, just looking for the truths out there.


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