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A Voice in the Wilderness

As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. -- William O. Douglas

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Aleph, by Paul Coehlo - My Review

I'm not at all clear on what to think about this book, but I know I don't like it.

It seems as though Aleph is a memoir and yet, it has a fantastic injection of what can be best described as, 'paranormal.'

I'm thinking... 'abnormal.'

Doubtless, Coelho is an accomplished writer, but I wonder how much of this book is flight of fancy, and how much is 'real.'  Perhaps my skepticism comes from the notions such as one put forth by Joan Rivers in a comedy routine she performed some years back.  She wickedly posited, "Why is it that aliens always appear to rednecks?... 'I saw it, I saw it! I was skinning raaaabbits!'..."   While I am paraphrasing her, I'm certain my rendition of Rivers' joke accurately conveys the spirit of her query. 

I also vaguely recall the comedian, Eddie Murphy once noted that, when people refer back to past lives, they invariably had some kind of royalty, celebrity or status attached.  I tend to agree; there were far more,'uninteresting' lives to be lived, and yet, as Murphy rightly pointed out, few - if any - reincarnation adherents ever recollect being,'the royal a**-wiper."  In short, the odds simply don't support their claims.

Maybe it wasn't Eddie Murphy at all who said it, and maybe what I have just written is just some fantastic confabulation I am resurrecting as a means of lending support to my skepticism about those who claim to having lived past lives.  Maybe it was something I heard in a past life or something like that.

Well, Coelho claims to have been a Dominican Monk during the Spanish Inquisition.  His, is a pretty interesting story and yet, the famous 'bullshit' meter that Hemingway once referred to is zinging away for me - in the red zone.  Oh hell, who am I kidding, it is pegged. 

I suppose my difficulty with, "Aleph" is trying to figure out whether this is fiction, or some altered reality.  Hey, I'm an 'inquiring mind'- I need to know, because I like fiction. Go figure.

I am not an ardent fan of crystals, or navel gazing.  Thus, I am a little bit miffed that some kind of bait-and-switch might be going on here by an author who is exploiting his fame to pull a fast one.  Moreover, if this is fantasy fiction, then it ought to be labelled as such - to keep skeptical nincompoops like me from wandering in and getting flummoxed by unwritten rules of the 'other' dimension. 

I guess all I am asking here is, how about a caveat - kind of like Dante's famous warning posted at the gates of hell - at the proverbial door?  What I mean, is if an aging writer is going to get into one of his psychologically damaged groupie's pants, this is one a hell of a story to put together in order to accomplish that end - especially when all he claims to have done is fondle her breast when they were both naked.  hmmm... He doesn't strike me as the, 'I never inhaled'- type.

If this story actually rings true, I have a few questions like; How do you prove this?  or, Where is there something that might corroborate such  fantastic claim?  or, Why do you, Paul Coelho, get to be a famous writer in this life, and a Dominican Monk from the past who had a chance to save someone's life, but forsook such an opportunity and were still rewarded the opportunity to 'come back' and become a famous writer who gets to cop a feel from the very same groupie whom you condemned to burn at the stake in your past life - this time around?  Talk about misogyny!

If you ask me - and nobody from either world has - it seems to me that the reincarnation gate-keeper kind of messed up; weren't you supposed to come back as a bug, or a slug or something like that?  What happened to good old-fashioned karma?

Now symbolically speaking; is anyone else kind of upset that this poor young  female re-incarnate was burned at the inquisition is also left to suffer being left hot, and unfulfilled for a second time in this life by an aloof, brooding man?  Is that what carries over from one dimension to another?  Well, Coelho the lover sure leaves them smoking.  Please pardon the pun. Sorry, I couldn't resist.  Perhaps more troubling is that, once a groupie, always a groupie... In other words, its not that some people never learn, they are doomed to repeat the same karmic mistakes ad infinitum.  That sucks.

You see how this goes?  This story has me all twitterpated because it violates my sense of justice.  It flies in the face of how the universe ought to be.  At this rate, George Dubya Bush is going to come back as Mitt Romney - or some such silliness like that.  Horrors.

The more I think about it, the more discouraged I become, because if Coelho's story carries even a shred of credibility, it means that those of us with the shitty seats in this life have nothing to look forward to in the next.  Major bummer here folks. Major... Here's hoping male pattern baldness isn't repetitive across dimensions of time and space.

On second thought, maybe this fantastic story serves as a potent reminder that ordinarily rational beings - famous people included - can still believe in a vengeful, wrath-stricken, angry sky god who can simultaneously be compassionate while encouraging his followers to strap on bombs and kill non-believers whom this omnipotent being, in his infinite wisdom, also created. 

The more I think about it, the more I think William of Ockham's call for simplification makes more sense than ever. 

The writing in this book deserves a, "B-" and the story deserves a, "D" - on balance this is a solid 0.5 star book, so I'm rounding up 

**This review, of course, comes with a caveat emptor of my own; I am most likely the guy who was, in his past life, the royal a**-wiper, and this review is little more than karmic sour grapes.  Well, at least I'm not a groupie.

Because of this book, I have created another category; "Navel-Gazer deja-Hooey."

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