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Habeas Blogus

Book reviews, more for my memory than anything else.

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Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Eleven Minutes, by Paulo Coehlo

Started 4/4, finished 4/12

Ponderous bullshit, and I don't want to waste time on it.

But it was just infuriating enough to make me want to write more.

Eleven Minutes is what happens when people tell you you're a guru and you start to believe it. I read the Alchemist and thought the tone matched what I've done in the Door Carver, except that it was a bit more preachy that I'm trying to be. This is 7 or 8 books later, and it seems that Coehlo has lost the ability to tell a story. He can only preach. I didn't once care about Maria or Ralf or anyone else. I didn't find her situation tragic, difficult, or even noteworthy.

"Poor me, I don't understand the meaning of love. I'm gorgeous. I can have any man I choose. I became a prostitute because it sure was easier than getting an education or working hard. Isn't it horrible when bad things like that happen to good-looking people?"

This reminds me of what used to be one of my favorite blogs. It used to be "Sarong Party Girl", but has since changed to "Miss Izzy". Izzy pontificates, philosophizes, and makes queries about every emotional reaction she's ever had when she's been in love or in lust. She draws conclusions that I thought only a 19-year-old could draw, taking her experiences and making generalizations about how "this must be how it is for everyone, and since I've had so much experience, I must be gifted. Since I have so many readers, they must love to hear me tell them what it's all about." She was much, much better when she described what she did in an average day. She was very good at describing her experience in living, vivid language. It was a pleasure to read. Now it's difficult to get through a single entry.

That's fine. It's her blog. I'd never tell someone else what to do with their blog... I just may not read it as much or very closely. I doubt she cares. The universe is balanced appropriately.

Coelho, however, has no such excuse. I bought this book. He published something that purports to explain "the sacred nature of sex withing the context of love", but which really amounts to a 19-year-old's journal about a year in the life of a prostitute, thrusting her own boring experiences onto us as though she's learned something that we are dead until we understand.

At no point is she threatened. At no point do we fear for her life, her health, or even her happiness. Nothing is ever taken from her. She only ever grazes unpleasantness, and never really experiences it. I don't know who said it, but a great writer once said, "I don't ever want to write about someone who isn't at the end of his rope." Eleven Minutes is a good example of why this is a good guideline to follow.

If you're into banal and immature musings on the supposed nature of love (and there seems only to be one supposed nature, by the way), this is the one to check out. Me, I'm going to hold Coelho at a long arm's length, and I'm going to make sure I read the first few pages of his books on Amazon before I buy them. Also, I'm going to read the reviews on Amazon, because the editorial reviews all hated this thing like I do. The users loved it, and I think that speaks to the fact that Coelho has something of a following as a guru. They can have him. I, for one, am very glad to have a glimpse into what could have happened if I were to publish the Door Carver, have people all over the world clamor to hear the sound of my voice, then just turn the same didactic tone to other topics, leaving out any real introspection. Eventually they'll all start to sound the same, but hey, at least I'd have a following and my books would sell through.

Book #12 will be American Pastoral, by Philip Roth, and I think it's gonna be a good one. Thank God.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Jess said...

I thought your plan was to be writing The Door Carver into your old age, anyway; that way you can publish a whole bunch before, in less mystical, all-encompassing styles, and not have the burden of guruhood the whole time.

This book sounds like it would piss me off, too, but for different reasons (in addition to yours); I find the idea of a high-class prostitute living a charmed life and talking about sex and love to be a misogynistic fantasy, made up by people who want to justify the continued exploitation of sex workers, the vast majority of whom have suffered years of abuse.

Um, yeah, I guess I too can preach ;).

Tue Apr 18, 04:47:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus said...

Funny, avoiding premature guruhood wasn't the motivation for writing the Door Carver into my old age--it was simply that I'm not sure I'm capable of reaching the wisdom it would require to produce such a thing before then--but after reading this guy I think that's a fine reason to wait a little bit.

You bring up a very good point about human trafficking, and that makes the whole thing seem worse than I had originally thought. Kinda like Pretty Woman, which I'm sure some poor souls still consider to be a light-hearted, harmless romp. Yeah Coehlo, I went there. I compared your "words to dream by" to that tripe.

Wed Apr 19, 07:20:00 AM  

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