Tuesday, October 03, 2006

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

Well, discussion of this book was minimal. It's a simple book, an extended fable really, with no real character development, no real plot, no dazzling passages of beautiful writing. And when you come right down to it, the story really is pretty formulaic. Kind of by-the-numbers quest for enlightenment kind of stuff.

So we were left with a tepid conversation about whether we liked it or not, but somehow it didn't seem to spark much discussion about our lives, our feelings about our lives, whatever. A little maybe. The main character goes through three incidents where he loses all him possessions, but recovers his will to persevere, and I think all of us could relate to that.

Final verdict? I'm not sure. I guess I would say Lesley liked it least. Vivian seemed pretty neutral, and I thought it was kind of OK, although not all that substantial. It seems, on reflection, that the best conversations have grown out of books that were more literary, more grounded in human experience. I think this is true even of books that were basically vehicles for certain philosophies. The two existentialist novels spring to mind -- Woman in the Dunes and The Stranger are really just extended riffs of the nature of human existence and the futility of it all, and yet they sparked extended discussion. Is this because they had a more complex structure? Because the underlying philosophy was more open-ended, more amenable to individual interpretation?

With The Alchemist, there's really not that much ambiguity about the message. It's right there, out on the surface. So you could agree with the message, or disagree, but not really have much discussion about what it is. This book just basically says to you, over and over, "Follow your dream, young Skywalker." So to speak. And when you've finished talking about that, you're more or less done.



Blogger Vivian said...

Love your Skywalker reference!

Now did you sleep at all last night?

9:06 AM  
Blogger Sarah said...

You know, I did, but I don't remember when.

11:43 AM  

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