Friday, November 30, 2012

Book Review: My Memories of a Future Life

Reading FEAR OF FLYING at 15 and 50 (Jong holds up beautifully.)

I first read FEAR OF FLYING in 1977. I was 15. My algebra teacher nicked it from my hand, threw it in the trash can and told me it was pornographic garbage, but I was already halfway through the book and smart enough to know that wasn't true. I rescued the book and spent a few weeks in detention, but it was well worth it. FEAR OF FLYING blew my tiny mind on several levels.

Because of the open discussion of sex in FEAR OF FLYING, some of the other important themes get back-burnered. For me, having been raised in the 1960s attending Wisconsin Synod Lutheran churches and schools that were dominated by German culture, the greatest impact of the book was how it made me rethink everything I'd been taught about Jews. (Unscrupulously greedy. Killed Jesus. Automatically going to Hell.) Here was the fresh antidote to the heartbreaking guilt of Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom, along with an electric cattle prod of enlightenment for a child indoctrinated with the party line about how Jews caused the Holocaust by telling Pontius Pilate, "Let his blood be on us and our children!"

Erica Jong's brilliantly wry descriptions of her family, observations about psychoanalysis and running inner dialogue about desire, ambition, pleasure, displeasure, sanity, insanity and womanhood freed my mind in a way that every 15-year-old mind needs to be freed if the 50-year-old to come along later is to be anything close to happy.

Jong's wit and intellect profoundly impacted my understanding of literary craft, and I went on to consume everything else she wrote. My evolution as a reader serendipitously coincided with her evolution as a writer. I consider her body of work a major element in my education as an author.

So now I'm 50, and I just now finished rereading FEAR OF FLYING for the first time since I rescued that battered paperback from the trash. It holds up beautifully, despite the intervening years. The world has changed, but the human heart has not. It never has and never will, and that's what blew my tiny mind this time around. FEAR OF FLYING is a book that begs to be revisited and deserves a place in every enlightened woman's library.

Highly, truly, passionately recommended.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

FEAR OF FLYING by Erica Jong


5.0 out of 5 stars Fear of Flying at 15 and 50: Still one of my favorite books
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I first read FEAR OF FLYING in 1977. I was 15. My algebra teacher nicked it from my hand, threw it in the trash can and told me it was pornographic garbage, but I was already halfway through the book and smart enough to know that wasn't true. I rescued the book and spent a few weeks in detention, but it was well worth it. FEAR OF FLYING blew my tiny mind on several levels.

Because of the open discussion of sex in FEAR OF FLYING, some of the other important themes get back-burnered. For me, having been raised in the 1960s attending Wisconsin Synod Lutheran churches and schools that were dominated by German culture, the greatest impact of the book was how it made me rethink everything I'd been taught about Jews. (Unscrupulously greedy. Killed Jesus. Automatically going to Hell.) Here was the fresh antidote to the heartbreaking guilt of Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom, along with an electric cattle prod of enlightenment for a child indoctrinated with the party line about how Jews caused the Holocaust by telling Pontius Pilate, "Let his blood be on us and our children!"

Erica Jong's brilliantly wry descriptions of her family, observations about psychoanalysis and running inner dialogue about desire, ambition, pleasure, displeasure, sanity, insanity and womanhood freed my mind in a way that every 15-year-old mind needs to be freed if the 50-year-old to come along later is to be anything close to happy. Erica Jong's wit and intellect profoundly impacted my understanding of literary craft, and I went on to consume everything else she wrote. My evolution as a reader serendipitously coincided with her evolution as a writer. I consider her body of work a major element in my education as an author.

So now I'm 50, and I just now finished rereading FEAR OF FLYING for the first time since I rescued that battered paperback from the trash. It holds up beautifully, despite the intervening years. The world has changed, but the human heart has not. It never has and never will, and that's what blew my tiny mind this time around. FEAR OF FLYING is a book that begs to be revisited and deserves a place in every enlightened woman's library. Highly, truly, passionately recommended.

Dwight Okita's THE PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL

5.0 out of 5 starsGenius idea, complex journey, beautifully delivered

I loved this book. The premise is genius, and the beautiful writing totally delivered the goods.

I was intrigued when I saw the trailer. It sounded like "Benjamin Button" meets "What Dreams May Come"; could the author actually pull that off? You're in some very dicey territory, endowing the unborn with a persona. I suspect a lot of editors and agents would look at that and glaze over instantly. Not gonna touch that with a vaccinated cattle prod.

This book is not a no-brainer. It's quirky and delicious. Like ice cream with bacon. But it's also profoundly uncomfortable in places. One moment two loving parents are tucking their child in under a magical lit up ferris wheel mural, the next moment something incredibly dark unfolds. (And here the editor who hoped for an easy trip to the acquisition committee coughed coffee and hit "delete"...) What keeps you reading is the austerely lovely writing and a compulsion to find out what Prospects decision will be when he's presented with the choice to live - or not - in this world that weaves magical realism with dystopian surrealism.

One particular passage that, for me, perfectly sums up THE PROSPECT OF MY ARRIVAL: Prospect asks his mother what happens in the Tunnel of Love, and she says, "It's just a sweet little ride that takes you to a dark place. After a while you get so turned around, you forget what's happening in the world around you. But eventually you come out into the bright light again. The cars are shaped like big swans."

Yeah. What she said. Dwight Okita has committed a valiant act of poetry here, and yes, he pulls it off.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Vissi d'arte (I have lived for art)

Barbara Taylor Sissel's THE VOLUNTEER

5.0 out of 5 starsIf you love Jodi Picoult and Anita Shreve, read Barbara Taylor Sissel

Another richly told story from a wonderfully talented author. Barbara Taylor Sissel weaves beautiful novels from fine, unexpected threads. Characters are complex and thoughtful. Places are fragrant and real. Conversations ring true and meaningful. Plots unfold with startling but graceful turns. This is a terrific author I want everyone to discover. She does an amazing job of first making us care about these people, pinging curiosity just enough with the mystery surrounding the codex, then pretty much tearing our hearts out with the beautifully written final chapters.

THE VOLUNTEER is a satisfying read, and that's enough in itself, but I think book clubs will find a whole additional dimension for discussion. Beyond the big questions that gray the core topic of capital punishment, there's the complicated realm of family relationships, the definition of "the honorable thing" and whether or not it's even possible to redeem oneself by living or dying for a private cause.

This is the kind of indie fiction I'm thrilled to see: a beautifully crafted book by a creative, accomplished author.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers.

Eric Coyote's THE LONG DRUNK (Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012)


5.0 out of 5 starsFear and Loathing meets Ironweed - a hilarious heroic journey on the skids

I hardly know where to begin. The most off-putting first chapter you'll ever be hooked by? The most offensive protagonist you'll ever love? The most revolting cast of wretches you'll ever stand up and cheer for? I just finished reading THE LONG DRUNK, and I honestly don't know which of us is more appalling: Eric Coyote for writing this bodily-fluid-soaked misadventure or me for loving it.

Coyote very wisely opens with a poetically vivid glimpse of Venice's underbelly before plunging us into the unfiltered conversations and filthy hand to mouth existence of Murphy, the damaged anti-hero, and his fallen crew. If I hadn't had that preface - that initial assurance that, yes, this is an incredibly talented writer - I wouldn't have made it through the first chapter. Not a punch is pulled, not a frack is given, not a politically correct construct is spared. Murphy is on a noble quest, but what makes this character impossible to quit on is the heartbreaking honesty with which he recognizes his own impossibly effed up limitations.

As an editor, there are some passages and technicalities I would have loved to get my hands on, but the storytelling is sure and audacious, and ultimately, as difficult as it is to read at times, the physicality and pathos are exactly what's needed to expose the true soul of this novel: a grittily horrid heroic journey that made me laugh out loud, fight tears, hug my dog and take a long, hot shower.

Highly recommended but not for the prissy.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Emily St. John Mandel's LAST NIGHT IN MONTREAL


5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous writing, irresistible scavenger hunt of a story

Up to my eyes in research, rough writing, and revisions on a work in progress, I have absolutely no time for pleasure reading right now. So it was a huge mistake to allow even a passing glance at an advance copy of Emily St. John Mandel's lovely debut novel, Last Night in Montreal. I can't help it; I am about to utter the hacky cliche of all book recommendations: I couldn't put it down. The words "pleasure reading" hardly begin to describe it. This was somewhere between a spa treatment and mid-day lovemaking. It's a mystery and a love story, a twisting path through the heart and mind of a richly drawn character.

This is not the blockbuster you're going to see on an endcap at Borders, but I hope hope hope it catches on with book clubs. There's so much fertile ground for discussion here, and this talented author deserves the affirmation.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Astonishing plastic art rescued from the flotsam


Richard Lang and Judith Selby Lang of San Francisco’s Electric Works gallery have created an astonishing array of sculptures, installations and sundry objet d'art from bits and pieces of plastic debris they've collected on Kehoe Beach in Point Reyes, California.

"We're not cleaning the beach. We're curating the beach."

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Raymond Chandler's THE BIG SLEEP


5.0 out of 5 stars Chandler is the master

There is something transporting about this book. The relentless rain. The over-the-top blondes. The hats always have some angle, whether they're cocked on top of a fashionable fairy or parked on a telephone receiver.

"If the mystery novel is at all realistic (which it very seldom is) it is written in a certain spirit of detachment; otherwise nobody but a psychopath would want to write it or read it," Chandler wrote in his essay "The Simple Art of Murder". "The murder novel has also a depressing way of minding its own business, solving its own problems and answering its own questions." (Hence the rain, maybe. It keeps the head down, the shoulders hunched, the collar up.) Okay, good to know, but more importantly, The Big Sleep corrected my mistaken belief that the detective/murder/mystery novel is all about plot. It isn't. Not when it's done right.

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Agent-Author Lois Winston Dishes on Top Ten Reasons Your Novel Is Rejected

Whether you've been looking to break into publishing or you've grown frustrated with rejections and want to "bulletproof" a future submission, you might want to check out this offering from someone with a unique perspective. Award-winning crafting mystery, romantic suspense, romance, and humorous women's fiction author and (in her other life) literary agent (with the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency) Lois Winston has a brand new e-book designed to guide you around the most common pitfalls.

Since I've known Lois for years, mostly as a fellow author, and respect her opinion on publishing matters, I asked her to stop by the blog today to answer a few questions about Top Ten Reasons Your Novel Is Rejected and How to Avoid Them. (Click the link to find buying links for all e-book platforms.)

BtO: Thanks so much for visiting Boxing the Octopus, Lois! We're delighted to have you here.

First question: I've known a number of agents who are also (sometimes pseudonymously) published authors. Which came first for you, and how has one career impacted and informed the other?

LW: Thanks so much for inviting me to be your guest today, Colleen. What most writers don’t realize is that there are quite a few agents and editors who are also published authors. The majority of them write under pseudonyms, sometimes closely guarded pseudonyms, an option not available to me since I sold prior to becoming an agent.

After selling my first book in 2005 (Talk Gertie To Me, now available as an e-book,) I was invited to join the agency that reps me. For several years prior to selling, I was receiving rejection letters that had nothing to do with the quality of my writing. My manuscripts were the victims of circumstance – lines being cancelled, editors leaving, similar books having just been purchased, marketing unsure how they could sell the book, etc. At the same time, I was helping friends rewrite their proposals, and they’d go on to sell their manuscripts after revising according to my input. My agent recognized that I have a talent for identifying what works and what doesn’t work in manuscripts, and that talent could be advantageous to the agency.

BtO: How has one career impacted and informed the other?

LW: For one thing, I think I have a unique insight into publishing, given my seat on both sides of the table. Having received my share of rejection letters, I know what it feels like. However, I now have a better understanding of the business side of publishing and how the rejection process is never personal but always motivated by business decisions. Writing is very emotional, but publishing is always ruled by the bottom line.

BtO: How did you come to write Top Ten Reasons?

LW: I’ve been giving online workshops, writing articles, and presenting programs at conferences and to writing groups for over six years. I also teach continuing education courses on writing. Many of my students and workshop attendees have urged me to make my workshops available in book form. With the phenomenal sales of e-readers over the past couple of years and the availability of indie publishing, I finally decided the time was right to heed their advice. I chose to begin with Top Ten Reasons Your Novel Is Rejected because it’s been my most popular workshop.

BtO: I know that manuscript evaluation is highly subjective, but can you share just a few common problems that will immediately land a submission in your rejection pile?

LW: Well, that’s what my book is all about. However, I will give you one example: too many writers open their books with page after page of back-story and description instead of with a dynamic opening that grabs a reader’s attention and makes him or her want to keep turning the pages. Filler is deadly, and I see way too much filler in submissions.

BtO: Is there one "simple" fix you'd like to pass along?

LW: Other than to read my book? Don’t fall in love with your own words. Sometimes the delete key is your best friend.

BtO: Thank you so much for the helpful responses. I'll definitely be recommending your book at my next workshop. But I can't let you go without sneaking in the traditional BtO bonus question. What're you reading for pleasure these days?

LW: Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, I was without power for going on nine days. With no computer access, I couldn’t work. So I whittled down my TBR pile as long as I had daylight streaming in through my windows. I read Melinda Leigh’s Midnight Exposure, Shelley Freydont’s Foul Play at the Fair, and Julie Hyzy’s Buffalo West Wing. Now that the power is back on, I’m playing catch-up and won’t have time for any further pleasure reading for a few weeks.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Why I'm supporting the Bald Ambition Kickstart (and I hope you will too!)

I sat down to write a book about cancer. What came out was a book about life.

When my memoir, Bald in the Land of Big Hair, was originally published by Harper Collins in 2001, I never imagined that this funny little book by a nobody novelist would take on a quietly powerful life of its own. Over the years, BLBH has been condensed by Reader's Digest, excerpted in Good Housekeeping, translated and published around the world. In 2011, with the paperback still in print from HC, I independently released the 10th anniversary ebook edition with a forward from the wonderful Elizabeth Berg and an update on me and my family.

Now the hilarious and heart-wrenching one-woman show adaptation by actress Lisa Hamilton is headed for an off-Broadway debut. And she needs your help. Not a lot of help. Just a little. As she says in her Kickstarter video below, "I want your beer money." With just 3 days left in her Kickstarter campaign, $20 each from fewer than 100 people would get her to her goal.

Lisa Hamilton's script remains impeccably true to my original text. Impressed by her passion and in awe of her talent, I gave her permission to run with it. I've never asked for or received a dime from the production of this show. I'll receive no portion of donated funds and no royalties for the New York workshop production.

This book was never about money for me; it was about message.

That's why I released the ebook independently: I wanted to keep the price low, making it accessible to as many readers as possible. And that's why I'm pricing the 10th Anniversary Ebook Edition of Bald in the Land of Big Hair at $.99 on Kindle this weekend only: to draw attention to the final weekend of Lisa's Kickstarter campaign and thank everyone who's supported her by chipping in and spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter and beyond.

Seeing Lisa's show for the first time was one of three mind-blowing moments when I realized this book is no longer about me.

About five years ago, I received a long, heart-wrenching email from a Wall Street executive whose daughter, like me, was diagnosed with lymphoma as a young mom. He told me she'd read Bald in the Land of Big Hair and copied bits and quotes from it on Post-It notes that peppered her bathroom mirror, bulletin boards and refrigerator.

"She wanted to talk to me about what she was going through," he said, "but I wanted to keep up that damn stupid positive attitude."

Frustrated, she'd told him, "If you ever want to know, read this book."

She always took it with her when she checked into the hospital, so she had it with her that week, but she suddenly lost ground and slipped into unconsciousness. Her father took the book from her bag, pulled his chair close to her bed and read through the long last night of his daughter's life. Now it was morning. "They say it'll be another hour or two," he told me.

He said he felt compelled to email me because he'd missed his opportunity to talk to her, but now he felt as though he'd laughed and cried with her, that he'd shared in her journey, and that on some level, she knew it, because she knew he would eventually read the book. "Thank you," he said, "for giving me a way to reach her."

A few years later, I spoke at a large survivorship event and was signing books afterward. As I did my best to hug and listen to each person in the long line, a woman came forward with a hardcover first edition copy of BLBH, and opening to the title page, I saw that I had signed it ten years earlier: "To my sister in survivorship. Shalom and Joy, Joni Rodgers."

The binding was broken, the dust jacket tattered and coffee-stained, and leafing through the worn pages I could see that the well-worn book had been passed from that original reader to a sister, to a friend, to a daughter, to a book club mate, to a neighbor, to a chemo buddy, to one woman after another, and each of them had added notes and highlights in a host of different handwriting, pens and pencils. The book had become a conversation, two dozen voices chiming in love and support, sharing hopes and fears, giving in to the laughter and tears.

I'd launched this little paper sailboat a decade earlier. Readers were the wind and water that carried it literally around the world and back to me, and though it was a profound privilege to have in my hands again for that brief moment, I had to send it on its way. It didn't belong to me.

Seeing Lisa Hamilton's adaptation of BLBH, witnessing what it meant to that audience, I was stricken again with the realization that this isn't the story of me; it's the story of every person's inevitable crucible moment in life. Lisa's show takes it to that level, using my words to create an entirely new work of art, and everyone who sees it, each in his or her own way, will make it their own.

I hope you'll take a moment to watch this short video about the NYC workshop production and pony up that beer money, sending the story on its way.

Joanna Weiss' MILKSHAKE


5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, smart and refreshing!

I thoroughly enjoyed this smart, funny, fast-paced novel. The characters are bright and engaging, the dialogue is zingy and true, and for those of us who tend to take ourselves a little too seriously when it comes to personal choices and political stands, it's a friendly but incisive calling out. A terrific debut from a talented author!

Originally posted on Amazon.com as Joni L. Rodgers

Harlequin Intrigue vs. Harlequin Romantic Suspense

I've been asked a number of times about the differences between the two lines I've written for: Harlequin Intrigue and Harlequin Romantic Suspense.

As their senior editors, Denise Zaza (Intrigue) and Patience Bloom (HRS) tell prospective writers in their linked Q&A chat, the two lines are definitely not interchangeable.

In a nutshell, I'll summarize what they're saying, adding in some examples from my own experiences:

1. Intrigue is a bit shorter (65-70K), more focused on the criminal investigation/procedural aspect of crime solving, and extremely "hero-centric." The more alpha the male is, the better. The romance element is less predominant than the intrigue focus, sensuality may vary but must be fully integrated with the crime plot, and love scenes receive less emphasis, if they're in the book at all. (My most recent Intrigue, Relentless Protector, involves a very suspenseful hunt for the heroine's missing five-year-old, and I can tell you, she was *not* in the mood, though there is definitely a developing romance with the hunky ex-Army Ranger hero whose wartime experience contributed to her late husband's death.) One or both of the protagonists is usually (though not always) involved in a higher-risk career, i.e. police, special ops/other military, private investigator. And cowboy heroes are very popular, though there are certainly other (alpha, Alpha, ALPHA!) types.

2. Harlequin Romantic Suspenses run from (70-75K) which gives more space to develop characters, including secondary characters. The character development, emotional/internal conflict, and developing romance receive more emphasis, though a suspenseful story is important, too. There's less emphasis on the procedural investigation and more on how events are impacting character growth/change, in my opinion. They love cowboys here, too, but there's perhaps a broader range of hero types, and family drama is very popular. (My November release, Passion to Protect, is the story of a wounded wilderness--hotshot--firefighter who's been carrying a torch for his first love, who married the wrong man. Battered but determined, she returns home, but is forced to rely on the hero to help her save her family from a devastating fire...and an even greater threat.) Can you see how these two stories differ?

A lot of these differences will ultimately boil down to the individual author's voice and storytelling emphasis. I started out writing Intrigues, which I still love, but my stories have gravitated more toward more emotional/family-oriented suspense, which has landed me squarely in Harlequin Romantic Suspense territory (which, I'll admit, is my favorite line to read. Don't tell! ;) By reading many examples from each line, you'll get a better feel for what the editors are looking for. And both are actively acquiring new authors, so best of luck to you!

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Can't touch this! (Just sayin'.)

Trailer Park: SUGARLAND by Joni Rodgers

In this modern retelling of the Psyche and Eros myth, two Texas sisters rebuild their lives and relationships in the wake of a violent betrayal.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Remember, remember the 5th of November



Valerie's letter from "V for Vendetta" written by Alan Moore
"I shall die here. Every last inch of me shall perish. Except one. An inch. It's small and it's fragile and it's the only thing in the world worth having. We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us."

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Yellow Sub Love & a quick $10 Red Cross donation

All You Need is Love! Unless you're in a hurricane, in which case you also need mops, medicine, blankets, bandages, diapers, Clorox, generator fuel, dry socks, protein bars, water bottles... The Red Cross is on the ground immediately in any disaster (including hurricanes!) and you know your money is going directly to the people who need it. To donate, visit www.redcross.org, call 1-800-HELPNOW or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Friday, November 02, 2012

You Don't Own Me: Why I voted early & voted for Obama


Kicking back for a few weeks, giving myself a moment to rebound from a hysterectomy. Just had to share this terrific message from Leslie Gore and friends.
I voted early because I knew I wouldn't be able to stand in line so soon after major surgery, and I voted for Obama.
Big Reason #1: I was diagnosed with blood cancer when I was a young stay-at-home mom, so I am now uninsurable without the protections offered by Obamacare. I'm just one example of how the old healthcare system drastically discriminated against women striving to be entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Big Reason #2: Post-surgery, I'm now dependent on estrogen support, but even if I was using these same hormones for contraception, satan worship or the secret in my barbecue sauce, drugs prescribed to me are my own private business, and no governmental or religious entity should be able to come between me, my doctor and the choices I deem appropriate for my own body. In the big picture, we absolutely cannot allow ourselves to be dragged back to the bad old days of limitations on choice when it comes to reproductive health. (Noting that we never hear vehement arguments about limiting access to Viagra for moral reasons.)
Big Reason #3: I don't believe our economy will thrive if we continue to allow irreparable damage to our environment or if we allow a decent education to be downgraded from necessity to luxury or if we allow half the population to be robbed of our rights over our own bodies. Talk about women in binders...
Not me. I'm unbound, Mr. Romney, and I intend to stay that way. You're wealthy enough to buy pretty much anything, but you don't own me.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

In Support of Passion

Write what you know, they they told me. So I wrote about a firefighter. A wilderness firefighter, called a hot shot, who is recovering from horrific injuries doing the job he loves.

Write what you love, I thought, as I added terrain so rough that it requires horses, along with a beloved family dog and the lost love Jake Whittaker has never gotten over. Only now, both are forced to risk their own lives to save the children she had with another man.

The wrong man...one who will never letter her go, no matter what it takes.

My latest release, Passion to Protect, is available in stores and online today. I have to admit, I fell head over heels for this hero, and as the wife of a firefighter, who can blame me?

Reviews have been terrific, but why not make up your own mind? Pick up your copy today and settle in for a fast-paced, heart-wrenching autumn read. If you've already bought your copy or you're still on the fence, could you please do me the favor of popping over to Amazon.com and giving Passion to Protect a like?

Thank you very much for your support, and I'm looking forward to writing more books in this line! Three more, if I'm reading my current stack of deadlines right! (In case you're wondering why I've been so quiet on the blog!)

CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell







5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most profound... (stare...blink...head explodes)
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
With plot (!), character and structures ably covered elsewhere, this review is about my experience of David Mitchell's CLOUD ATLAS. I was curious when I started and weeping when I finished. In between, taken heart and soul. Resonating in the background were some of my favorite reading experiences: The majesty and moral character of Melville's MOBY DICK. The gimlet eye and heartbreaking hindsight of Michener's HAWAII. The rich, musical ethos of Elise Blackwell's AN UNFINISHED SCORE. The hardboiled cunning of Elmore Leonard's OUT OF SIGHT. The chilling resonance of George Orwell's 1984. The bleak dystopian vision of Cormack McCarthy's THE ROAD.

Each of the six worlds in CLOUD ATLAS vividly awakened sense memories, books, music, movies, conversations, experiences. The nesting doll metaphor is apt for the structure of the novel itself but doesn't talk about the air in between where a willing reader will feel his/her own personal past and future. This is one of those rare books capable of drawing you in on that level.

The writing craft is fine, and I mean *fine* fine, as in particularly, specifically, exquisitely made. The range and depth of voices is spectacular; I experienced only a few moments of dialogue fatigue. The storytelling is entertaining and pace-conscious with philosophizing that feels more conversational than preachy. The concept is brilliant without being overworked or parlor-tricky. The infrastructure of the story is a balls-out astonishing accomplishment.

I've actually had CLOUD ATLAS on my TBR pile for several years. A review copy was sent to me when the book was originally published, but it's a big book, and I'm always pressed for time. This week, in the hospital for a hysterectomy, I downloaded it to my iPhone because I want to see the movie as soon as I'm up and able. In a weird way, I feel like the book called to me at a rare moment when I was quiet enough to receive it, and I'll always be grateful for that.

In the final amazing chapter, Adam, with whom, appropriately, we began the journey, takes us to its resolution, forcing us to despair at the utter darkness, then showing us a redeeming beam of light.

Reflecting on all this, Adam says, "A life spent shaping a world I want Jackson to inherit, not one I fear Jackson shall inherit, this is a life worth living."

Of course, I was already having that same thought about the world my children live in, and as he translated his good intentions into a pragmatic plan of action, I could see myself doing the same. As flaky as this sounds, I felt a sort of rebirth in this story of transmigrating souls, and Lord, I hope that's not just painkillers talking, because I want to take that better self with me into the future. I will. I already have.

Bottom line: It's a beautiful, ambitious, spiritual wrecking ball of a book. Probably not for cynics, speed-readers or fundamentalists. Highly recommending for old hippies, young hipsters, anyone open to having their soul stirred and mind blown.

A footnote: The Kindle version is one of those sloppy conversions publishers did hastily when ebooks became the thing after 2007ish. Shame on Random House for marring this author's transcendent work with those shoddy production values. But transcend it did. I can't bring myself to deduct a star for the numerous technical errors and anomalies.

THANK YOU

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