Category Archives: books

dying and living and sleeping and waking

i feel as if my soul is dying a slow painful death and taking my body down with it. or vice versa. either way, i’m dying a slow painful death, or at least it feels that way monday through friday, from approximately 8am to 430pm.

i remember about a year ago, i was so happy to have gotten this position with my current employer. this current position started out paying more than what i earned at the last library i worked at, plus i thought it would build on the foundation i had created at the other job.  and truthfully, in some ways it has. i have learned a lot at this job, especially in areas of web development, and the intricacies of interlibrary loan and copyright law. this knowledge is something i may be able to take with me wherever i go next. (and i am going, somewhere, but that will be the subject of another post.)

and yet, today my work consisted of comparing a printed out list with the contents of a database. basically, this is bullshit work, as far as i’m concerned. much of the work i do in this position is bullshit work. i spend most of my days moving bytes of ‘info’ from one computer to another, in an ‘industry’ i’m feeling less and less respect for with each day that goes by.

there is so much real work to be done in the world, and i’m feeling as though my soul and mind are wasting away. just today i finished reading derrick jensen’s dreams, which is an amazing, amazing book,  and has made one hell of an impression on my psyche. one thing this book has inadvertently done is made glaringly obvious to me all the ways in which my job, and current way of life, are 1. bullshit,  2. pointless, and 3. evil. yes, evil. the building i work in is located next to, and affiliated with, a vivisection lab. plus, there’s this whole morality, or lack of, in the medical-pharmaceutical industry, a morality that revolves around little more than making money. it seems the purpose of the medical-pharmaceutical industry is not to get people healthy, but to keep them sick yet somewhat functional, and dependent on the industry. sadly, the work i do in an academic medical library supports this paradigm.

meanwhile, this country is literally on the verge of financial collapse, and this planet is on the verge of a far worse collapse. if it isn’t too late, i want to do something about the latter, at least in my little corner of the world, but am not doing a damn thing, other than going to and from my little cubicle every day like a good little serf. other than the plants in my cubicle, the closest i am to nature most work days is the contact made with all the paper i waste (although we do recycle – what good little stewards of the planet we are), paper that used to be in a forest somewhere. as of now, i’m still contributing to the problem (if you could call the planet dying simply a ‘problem’), and i want to do something different from that. i want something where i’m giving back instead of calling myself environmentally conscious while working a job that is in conflict with my soul, just so i don’t have to worry so much about keeping a roof over my head and sallie mae off my back. dreams has touched off an awakening in me where i want to work towards what is important and real. and these are all things i’ve thought about before, but jensen’s book about intangibles has shown me what is real and necessary and urgent. i won’t go into all that now because i do plan to write a fitting review of dreams sometime in the next couple of weeks. for now,  i’ll just say that this book is something of a catalyst for me and the upcoming changes i’m planning to make in my life. yes, i’ve known all along that collapse is imminent, and even if it isn’t ‘imminent’, it is going to happen probably in my lifetime (which i guess would make it somewhat imminent), and sooner would be better than later. it’s helped me to realize that maybe now is the time for me to extricate myself from this system, which i am in the slow process of doing. (also, more thoughts on this extrication in future posts.)

are you happy with the work you do (whether it’s paid or unpaid)? are you contributing to the demise of this planet or to the demise of civilization? (those ideas are opposites, believe it or not.) whom do you serve, Life or Death?

day 1: nablopomo, and i’m already cheating…

my first posting for national blogging post month will be a repost of the very first blog entry i ever posted, on bloglines (which is going away forever as of november 15). (is it really cheating to post something you’ve written somewhere else a long time ago?) i’ve tried to leave the entry as i wrote it on march 14, 2006. however, i did fix a couple of typos and i added in a few links that were not there previously. it’s interesting to see how far i’ve come in the nearly 5 years i’ve been blogging (first at bloglines, then setting up impolite conversation at blogger, and now migrating over to wordpress.com, and i plan to migrate again within a couple of months to a self-hosted wp blog), and how my thought processes have changed and not changed. i have a few other items from the bloglines blog (books music food) that i plan to repost on those days when the muse is settling in for a long winter’s nap. but for now, here’s the one that started it all. (and for the record, my opinions on the role of the devil, mentioned prominently below, have changed somewhat since this original writing. but only somewhat.)

blogging at the end of the world (… or damn, why didn’t i start blogging sooner?)

this is my inaugural foray into the world of blogging.  this may be something i do daily, or once a year, but most likely the frequency will fall somewhere in between the two extremes.  the things that make my heart beat fast are books and music and good food, so those things will probably be the focus of my writings, but i will also delve into religion, politics, sex, relationships, poetry, sports, racial issues, the war in iraq, and anything else that happens to present itself to me. 

so… i am currently obsessed with the writings of andrei codrescu, npr commentator, essayist, novelist, poet, and generally a thought provoking human being.  i love it when my two very favorite topics of religion and sex intersect, and in what i’ve read of his work so far, they not only intersect, they collide.  over the last couple of weeks, i’ve completed the novels wakefield and messiah, and am in the process of reading hail babylon! in search of the american city at the end of the millennium and the devil never sleeps and other essays. i just recently paid attention to him for the first time through an interview on what is enligtenment? magazine’s website. i found him very relatable as far as  some points he made about spirituality and american society, so i thought i’d try one of his novels to begin with. i’m a huge tom robbins fan and when i read robbins’ recommendations on the jackets of these particular novels, i knew that codrescu was someone i needed to take a good look at.  it turned out that both of these books were everything i could ever want in a novel (with the possible exception of the ending of messiah – not entirely happy with the way it ended, but i don’t know how it could have ended any differently).  both books made me laugh out loud, made me cry, made me squeamish, made me horny, but most importantly, made me think.

one of these continually evolving thoughts fed by these particular books is the role of the devil in our lives.  first off, let it be known that i am no big fan of the devil.  i come from a fundamentalist christian history, and while i no longer self-identify with those beliefs, i do believe that the devil is a real and powerful being.  however, he is not an equal with god, as i think many christians believe, and therefore have the tendency to blame him for everything bad that happens in their lives.  he is a creation of god, just as we all are (more on this in a moment).  anyway, in both books, the devil himself plays a central role.  basically in wakefield, the devil is the catalyst for wakefield (the main character, with one name, similar to madonna in that regard) to ‘get a life’.  but more interestingly, in messiah, i see him being portrayed as  being in charge of making life interesting for us here on earth.  he makes the excellent point that if life were all good or all evil, we’d basically be bored to tears. (i used to wonder this about being in heaven for eternity; i mean, being happy all the time, with no dramas or crises, wouldn’t that get boring after a few hundred thousand years?)  ultimately in messiah, the devil is the one who prevents the apocalypse from happening, namely because he likes the way things are here on earth now. (well i guess if you were going to be locked away in a bottomless pit for 1000 years after the apocalypse, you’d like it here on earth currently too.)  (and as for all this control that the devil seems to have in this story, apparently god, after having set things in motion, is just looking in on us and not really interfering unless asked.)

okay, i’m not saying that the devil is this being with our best interests at heart, but i have come to see him as another creation of god, as stated earlier.  as created beings, aren’t we all created in the image of god?  i believe that we are all little localized pieces or aspects of god, so would that not be true of lucifer also?  in other words, i guess i’m saying that god has a dark side that most are just not openly willing to acknowledge.  but how would we know what good is without evil, light without darkness, or sweetness without sourness?  it is the ugly that makes the beautiful worthwhile and transformative to us, and not just another day in paradise.  if god is all-knowing and all-encompassing, then he (and i use that pronoun loosely) knew what he was doing by even creating lucifer in the first place.

i believe this is one of the key messages in messiah, that the bad in life is necessary to appreciate the good, and that what appears to be good (major notz, felicity’s uncle, for example) can be evil, and what looks evil (the shades, a group of unemployed stoners) can be good.  it also illustrates something that i’ve believed for awhile (which i’ll probably touch on in future posts), that people make decisions and do things based on what they know and on their level of consciousness.  this doesn’t dismiss right and wrong (i mean, hitler was obviously horribly wrong with all the horrors he wrought upon the world, but even he was operating from what he knew; his actions did not just happen in a vacuum), but just means that people do what they think they need to do to get by, whether it’s to scratch an itch on the physical level or to satisfy an ego need.

i could go on with thoughts about these two books for a long while.  this means that these meet at least one of the criteria of a good novel, as they have made me think long after i’ve closed the pages.  i’m sure i will bring up other aspects of these stories from time to time, but there are plenty of other things in my world to write about.  i’m off to explore some more of those things now.

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a compulsive listmaker’s dream come true

via a series of click-throughs on various websites, i became aware of mighty girl’s mighty life list, which is her listing of 100 things she wants to accomplish before the end of her life. as i am moving to columbia at the end of this month (more on that in another post, i’m sure) and turning over a new leaf, i think this is the perfect time for me to compile my own version of a bucket list for all the world (or at least my corner of it) to see. i don’t have quite 100 items here, but i’m sure it will be added to over time. some things are goals i want to accomplish, some are habits i want to cultivate, and some are qualities i want to see in myself. in no particular order:

1. get serious about blogging
2. learn to build a website from scratch
3. earn m.a. in library and information science from the university of missouri
4. master microsoft office suite, especially word and excel
5. learn adobe photoshop
6. take usda graduate school basic and applied indexing classes
7. take usda graduate school proofreading class
8. earn m.a. in either integral theory or consciousness and transformative studies through jfku (depending on what sort of work i do after library school/where i end up living; integral theory is an online program, while consciousness studies is f2f)
9. become a shaman’s apprentice
10. become more knowledgeable about carl jung, dreamwork, applied mythology
11. become involved with a gnostic community, either online or face-to-face
12. buy a small house with a great little backyard
13. take part in/start (?) an integral salon, similar to this one
14. grow most of my own veggies
15. become much more knowledgeable about permaculture and its uses in an urban setting, and apply that knowledge
16. grow a small orchard in my backyard
17. raise chickens for eggs and meat
18. learn to swim
19. take a belly dancing class
20. knit a sweater that i’m not embarassed to wear in public
21. cook dinner from scratch most evenings
22. make my own wine using fruit from my backyard orchard
23. sky dive
24. make love in a cemetery
25. visit new orleans at least once a year (if i don’t end up living there), either for mardi gras or jazzfest
26. have my home featured in a tour on apartment therapy
27. do long term volunteer work in south africa
28. vacation in amsterdam
29. have a book of my poetry published
30. have an ayahuasca experience
31. write a book on true freedom
32. take a cross-country roadtrip
33. visit turkey, including instanbul (of course) and rumi’s birthplace
34. own a viking professional range
35. begin and continue a regular yoga practice
36. get a hood piercing
37. get a mermaid tattoo
38. attend burning man at least once
39. attend sxsw
40. submit a paper to the biennial integral theory conference (possibly on integral libraries, or maybe integral applications in the organization of information???) in 2012
41. learn to change my own oil
42. visit the grand canyon
43. do a firewalk
44. make a quilt
45. learn to throw pottery
46. be a volunteer at each integral theory conference from here on out
47. visit the chapel of sacred mirrors
48. earn the majority of my income through writing and doing freelance work
49. strip and refinish my green vanity
50. give 10% of my income to charity
51. save 20% of my income
52. compost religiously
52. read sex, ecology, spirituality in its entirety
53. become a reiki master (currently at level one)
54. get a professional massage at least twice a month
55. meet derrick jensen
56. remember to love on a moment by moment basis
57. host a thanksgiving dinner
58. visit new zealand – pictures i’ve seen of new zealand’s rain forest have me convinced that it is the most beautiful place on earth
59. see erykah badu perform live
60. learn to lucid dream
61. join the peace corps when i’m in my 60s
62. grow an avocado tree from a pit
63. become a confident public speaker
64. take part in nablopomo annually
65. share my life with someone who is available emotionally, physically, and spiritually to love me
66. learn not to take life so personally

this is enough for now; there will be more… 🙂

you might be gnostic if…

yesterday i read the short but packed little book living gnosticism: an ancient way of knowing by jordan stratford. as i was reading, i kept doing little fist pumps and exclaiming ‘yes!’ under my breath (or maybe not so under my breath…). over the last decade or so i have evolved from being a fundamentalist born-again christian with some unanswered questions to someone who ‘believes’ in god, still with unanswered questions, and thinks that while religion is great at pointing at the ineffableness of god, it ultimately gets in the way of a person experiencing god. i saw the underlying truth of Religion, but the dogma and the myopia of it all basically turned me off (and still does). not being a fan of being labeled or pigeon-holed, i just saw myself as someone who loves god, someone who was the dreaded cliché ‘spiritual but not religious’.

while completing my degree last year, i read a number of books that discussed gnosticism in depth and have found that i’ve based much of what i believe now on what i read then. still, reading stratford’s book yesterday caused a light bulb to go off above my dreadlocked head: um, gail, it looks like you might be gnostic. this ‘label’ doesn’t even matter so much, as it’s not like there’s any sort of gnostic community whatsoever here in the mostly spiritually homogeneous midwest. however, it’s also nice to know that there are people alive today who seem to really get the nature of reality and also are in love with mystery and beauty and wonder and questioning. it’s okay to not know the answers and it’s okay to get a different answer than the person sitting next to you.

at any rate, over the last day or so, i’ve pretty much read through stratford’s entire blog as well as having looked at many other websites having to do with gnosticism. many entries from his blog stand out for me, but this one in particular, god and faith for the non-god-and-faith crowd, expounds much more eloquently than i ever could on my feelings about god and faith and belief. and this has caused me to look at all these various little elements in my life, such as this little altar i already have set up to honor the divine feminine (i’d take a picture, but my camera is off in europe without me at the moment) or my fascination with the matrix trilogy or the realization of how integral many elements of gnosticism are (or can be), and i wonder why i didn’t pick up on this last year, if not sooner. (i was probably stressed just trying to get my damn thesis done.)

most importantly, this has helped me to realize that it’s okay that i’m not a christian anymore. yet it’s also okay for me to embrace jesus and mary magadalene and the other apostles and other aspects of christianity, not because any of it is to be taken literally, but for what it all can symbolize and how it can help me in my quest to know myself.

i think this is all pretty dang awesome. 🙂

the bag of flesh known as gail

where to begin, where to begin… i’ve been reading jed mckenna and his first two books (spiritual enlightenment: the damnedest thing and spiritually incorrect enlightenment) have proven to be nothing less than a major mindfuck. i’m anxiously waiting for the third (spiritual warfare) to arrive, which is supposed to be about waking up within what mckenna calls ‘the dream’.

before reading his books, i had already been realizing that life is pretty much a dream and trying to figure out how to be a more active participant within the dream instead of just letting it ‘happen’, or to live more lucidly, as it were. and then i come across mckenna’s words and now realize that the only thing that matters about the dream is that i wake up from it. however, the hard part about this realization is that this thing called *i* is also a dream. i’ve come to terms with life being a dream, but *me* being a dream? that means i don’t exist. there is no me. it’s all a construct: my thoughts, dreams, memories, preferences, opinions, the books on my bookshelf, the clothes i wear, all meant to make me seem *special*, *unique*, *important*, and i’m none of those things. i’m not. the only thing i am is full of shit. just like the rest of humanity. but humanity is not my concern at this moment, or maybe it is in that i can’t deal with most members of it right now. even friends and family are hard for me to spend large chunks of time with. i think i probably have one friend, and an online acquaintance, who would be most likely to understand what i’m getting at here, that i can talk to somewhat about what this is like. otherwise, most everyone else i know (and don’t know, for that matter) is thoroughly ensconced in the dream and think it’s absolutely real and they and their thoughts and beliefs are absolutely real and that even i, the bag of flesh known as gail, am absolutely real. and they are wrong.
so, at this point, *i* am still just a part of the dream. and if i figure out who the fuck this *i* is, i wake up. (i feel like i should have the who playing in the background: ‘tell me, who the fuck are you?’) so who am i? i don’t know anymore. i mean, i was born in 1965 under circumstances i’m not even fully aware of. my supposed father, the man whose name is on my birth certificate, was in bed with another woman the night i was born because he was so upset about his wife giving birth to another man’s child. growing up, i knew something was wrong because he and i never bonded (or rarely even spoke to one another) and i had no physical resemblance to him or anyone on his side of the family. still, i spent most of my life up until my 30s, believing that he was my biological father, because i had no tangible reason to believe any differently. i was told otherwise by my mother’s two best and oldest friends only because my mother was thought to be on her deathbed at the time. however, she did get better, then passed away a little more than a year later, but never did ‘fess up; even when talking to her through my psychic last year, she still didn’t confess to it on the other side of the grave. so i don’t know anything about my biological father, other than his name and what he did for a living. this means that even on the most basic, rudimentary level, i have no way of knowing fully what this bag of flesh descended from. and it just doesn’t seem fair, but it is what it is. however, if i don’t know this, what else don’t i know???
what i do know (or thought i knew), on this plane anyway, is that i was considered a highly intelligent child, having skipped a grade in school; i have an addiction to carbohydrates and sugar that i fight daily; i get a lot of compliments about my hair; i think certain forms of anarchy would be ideal; i’m bisexual; i’ve traveled to some interesting places, but have only been outside the united states for something less than 18 hours; i’m lonely but prefer being alone most of the time although physical companionship would be nice at times; i think i’m pretty smart but also feel like a fraud much of the time… i could go on and on with the trivia, but is any of it true? i, i, i…. who is this *i* that has interesting hair, who is bisexual, who has done some limited travel? fuck. i’m… can i even write a sentence without using *i*???
whatever. i’m trying to write something that i know absolutely without a doubt to be true, and i am finding that damn near impossible to do. to me, whatever is true is that which is not fleeting and cannot be destroyed. everything about me, everything in my life is fleeting; hell, life itself is fleeting. let’s say i live to 80; that’s a mere drop of mist in the bucket of time. my thoughts only last moment to moment; my body will eventually stop functioning and be turned to ash which i hope will be used as compost on flowers with a limited lifespan themselves; all this crap here in my apartment will be given to goodwill or stashed in the back of some relative’s closet or end up in a landfill or maybe burn in a fire or in some other way be dispersed amidst the dream when I’m gone (?!); my beliefs – well we have seen how my beliefs have changed radically over the past decade. ten years ago i was a wage slave in a christian bookstore, and now look at me, derisively denouncing pretty much any form of religion or belief. (wonderful, and imho, true piece of writing by julie, mckenna’s ‘student’ in spiritually incorrect enlightenment, page 256: ‘What is Christianity but a two-bit protection racket? Good cop/bad cop. The son, our blessed savior, saving us from what? From his psychotic freakshow father who’s hellbent on burning us alive forever. What kind of twisted fuck thinks this stuff up? What kind of pathetic slob falls for it? My kind. Me. I did.’ me too, julie. who woulda thunk it?) there is nothing about me that is real, yet i have this attachment to it all as if my life depends on it. maybe that’s because my life, at least as a part of the dream, does depend on me hanging on to the fantasy. and, while it’s had its moments, it hasn’t even been a very pleasant fantasy overall. wouldn’t i have chosen things differently if i knew early on that this was just a dream? maybe, maybe not, who the fuck knows?
what i know to be true at the moment of this writing is the only thing about me that is true, that cannot be destroyed, is my awareness, which i’ve had from before i was born until now; which, in reality i had before i was conceived and will continue to have long after this body stops working. everything else is just part of the construct. and i guess my job in all this is to rid myself of my emotional attachment to the construct and embrace the only thing i know to be true. my ego must destroy itself. if i choose to accept this mission, this is going to be sooo hard. being at this point so very much sucks, because right now i feel like i can’t go back to the way i was even a month ago, but going forward will be a nightmare, if i choose to detach from all this nonreality and pursue ‘enlightenment’. but it only makes sense that i do so, how can i knowingly hang onto a delusion??? i mean, detaching to this degree is a scary thing. how am i supposed to maintain relationships? what about being a part of a healthy, loving romantic relationship, which I still have hopes for (talk about a fantasy!)? how is this even possible if i’m on this quest to weed out falsehood from my life, falsehood being defined as anything that is not 100% true? how am i supposed to show up at work every morning, let alone move to california and continue my education, if everything and everyone i see rubs me the wrong way even on a good day because of ignorance? how can i listen to the dramas my family and friends role play in daily, when i know they are not real, it’s all just a big fucking sometimes tedious play? similarly with politics, it’s all just more drama that affects a larger cross-section of participants in the play. maybe one day i’ll be detached enough to look on it all with a sense of amusement, but right now it’s just painful, because it all seems so meaningless and a waste of time, and yet i’ve got 44 years invested in it.
so, this is going to be ugly, but i have to work it out somehow. i don’t even know why it has to be worked out, but it’s something like a compulsion, i suppose. and let’s say that, okay, eventually i am face to face with reality and have weeded out all that is not true – i am this enlightened creature with the interesting hair. what does that even matter, as opposed to me living out my life the way it is now, like everyone else is doing? one key notion in spiritually incorrect enlightenment is that the point of enlightenment is to realize that there really is no point. geez, talk about meaningless and a waste of time. yet deliberately allowing myself to be a part of a delusional world is not really an option. and i realize that, should all go well physically, i’ll be on this planet another 40 or so years moving around amidst the dream, but i hope to develop the ability not to take it seriously and not to look askance at those who do. (please hurry up and get here, spiritual warfare, for some suggestions on how this might happen…) in the meantime, well, here we go… …don’t take anything personally that i might write from here on out; it’s really not you, it’s me… and i know that most people who have read this far are probably thinking i’ve gone off the deep end. maybe i have.

truth in fiction

the short story ‘revelation’ by haven kimmel (from the anthology killing the buddha: a heretic’s bible by peter manseau and jeff sharlet) is the most brilliant piece of fiction writing i’ve come across. ever. period. it’s even better than the writing of tom robbins, and robbins is the gold standard as far as i’m concerned.

‘revelation’ is written from the point of view of a multitudinous godhead as it attempts to explain how the book of revelation ended up so convoluted. this story so inspires me that i once spent a weekend typing out the entire story, just so i could attempt to inhabit it a bit more deeply. i decided to revisit it over this past weekend and as always honed in on something timely:

Stay inside your skin and figure it out. We urge this upon you in your sleep. Be radically negative: not this, not this, not this. The Kingdom is not your clan, your country, your meetinghouse. The Conflict is not your government, your enemies, your struggle with entropy and degeneration. Use your history only as metaphor, koan, or parable. (page 275)

wow. this portion of the story really hit me, because the day before i had just finished spiritual enlightenment: the damnedest thing by jed mckenna, which really rocked my world (to use a stupid cliché). mckenna basically says that enlightenment has nothing to do with spirituality or bliss or nondual consciousness, it only has to do with knowing what is really true, and asking yourself the tough questions until you get the answer for yourself. i’ve been chewing on his words since i began the book a few days ago, asking myself about the nature of reality and what i can absolutely, without a doubt, know to be true, which i have no doubt i’ll be writing about in the future. right now, i’ll just say that i feel similarly to way i felt right after reading why christianity must change or die by john shelby spong a few years ago, which was a tumultuous time for me spiritually. however, this time i’m not angry or anything like that. (i think i got that brand of anger out of my system while reading not in his image by john lamb lash a couple of years ago.) it’s more that mckenna’s writing in some ways confirmed for me things i’ve already figured out for myself about religion and belief in general. but i don’t want to go into all that right now…

…i just want to tell y’all to go out and buy this killing the buddha anthology or check it out from the library or borrow it from me :). kimmel’s story alone would be worth it, but there are other wonderful pieces of writing within as well: travel essays written by manseau and sharlet as they meander through the spiritual backwoods of america, interspersed with other writers’ individual takes on individual books of the bible. however, mainstream christians, please take note: it is subtitled a heretic’s bible, so there are writings that some may consider offensive or, more hopefully, thought-provoking. if a piece of writing causes you to think every once in awhile on why you believe what you believe, what harm can come from that?

i want a pet gargoyle

i just finished reading a work of fiction, a rare thing for me. i was intrigued by the cover of the gargoyle by andrew davidson: a woman has two tattoos on her back exposed, a pair of angel’s wings taking up the greater part of her back and an intricate celtic cross on her upper back. looking at the reviews on amazon.com, i decided that this was worth taking a chance on and added it to the list of materials currently out on my library card.

some books i can read in a single setting and while i will admit that this wasn’t one of them, i was able to finish it off in two and a half days. that’s at least partially because i had to put it down and let the words digest. the plot is relatively straight forward: a man gets severely burned in a car accident that was his fault, and as he works on healing in order to be released from the hospital so that he can then commit suicide, he meets a 700-year-old woman who knew him in a previous life, which changes everything. (see, relatively straight forward. 🙂 i won’t go into the intricacies of the story line, in case you might want to read it. all i’ll reveal at this point is that on page 172, i put the book down and started crying because of what i read. even my main man, tom robbins, with all his wicked insights and incredible way with words has never had this effect on me. plus, librarians and meister eckhart and dante’s inferno and art and languages and hell, among other topics, are swirled throughout the pages. this is my kind of book. it’s not light reading, but if you are looking for a work of fiction that can be a bit intense at times (especially descriptions of the fire and the ensuing burns that are the foundation of the plot), keep this on your short list.