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  • Writer's pictureKevin Lamport

My favourite book - in 1000 Words or Less

I'm reading The Power of One. Again. I've lost count of the times I've read, listened or recommended Bryce Courtenay's first novel.

Way back when, I picked it up hesitantly. I don't typically read literary fiction but this book came heavily praised and getting out of my comfort zone occasionally (some people call it a rut), is generally an excellent idea…

I read The Power of One the first time, and every subsequent time, for the story it is. Perhaps Courtenay wrote it hoping for more. If he did, I’m sure he succeeded. Questions about religion, race relations, and the power of one (“…one idea, one heart, one mind, one plan, one determination…”), are themes that repeat themselves throughout the book. They are as relevant today as when he authored it. They practically demand thought and analysis. But, I’m no kind of deep thinker. I read for entertainment and escapism. I definitely don’t slow the pace of a novel down long enough to answer these book-club type questions. There is plenty of opportunity for that in real life.

Recommending a book (or program), can be a tricky business. People are often predisposed to dislike a recommendation when it is outside the genre they typically enjoy. I resist literary fiction because it often leans heavily on long descriptive passages. I’m not interested in reading three pages describing the colour of the landscape in the lowveld, or the names of every store on the main street.

I have a friend who won’t read Stephen King because he’s “weird.” Never mind the Master of Macabre probably looked weird on purpose for the book jacket photo and choosing not to read Stephen King means he’s missing out on perhaps one of the best novels ever, The Stand, as well as the best series ever, The Dark Tower. (Okay, when it comes to a series, Harry Potter is right up there, and on that point Stephen King agrees).

More arbitrarily…

My mother won’t read Bryce Courtenay because, “…his books are too thick.”

I’ve met a person who won’t watch TV or any North American movies because they’re all terrible and none of the actors can act. None of them. Seriously. None of them. She reads French poets, classics or literary fiction because, basically (as far as I can tell), she thinks she’s above anything that doesn’t somehow address the human condition (whatever that means), and if it’s overly long and boring, even better. Apparently, being bored trumps being entertained.

I suppose then, unwritten Rule Number One could be: if a subject matter is something a person can’t enjoy, for whatever reason (like my friend who, I suspect objects to the supernatural element that often shows up in King’s novels), then recommending a book which contains those elements is pointless. Most times, if you know a person well enough to recommend a book, you know what he will or won’t appreciate it. But, every now and then…

…something comes along that is so powerful Rule Number One goes right out the window. When that happens, you can only hope a person will take a take a chance and get out of his rut. Maybe he’ll widen his perspective. Maybe she’ll silently admit her narrow viewpoint means she's missing out on a small thing that could enrich her life. It worked for me with Life of Pi and A Prayer for Owen Meany. As it happened, it worked with The Power of One as well.

For me, I doubt a novel will ever answer questions about the world in which we live…I’ll always read for story first. But, it turns out, when I slowed down long enough to appreciate them, Courtenay’s descriptive passages about the protagonist’s hometown enhanced that story.

If you’re still unsure about reading The Power of One, listen to it as an audiobook. I’d argue the novel is better as an audiobook than a paperback. Humphrey Bower, who reads it, adds an impressive extra layer to the story with his use of accents, pacing and emotion.

As an interesting aside, Bryce Courtenay used the rough draft manuscript as a door stop until someone convinced him to send it to an agent. He did and sold The Power of One for 1 million dollars!

What about you...what's your favourite book? Movie? Television series, not including Game of Thrones because GoT has dragons and Emilia Clarke so obviously, everyone loves that show.

I’ll be back on September 19th and we’ll discuss Princess Leia Organa. Bye for now.


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