Saturday, September 17, 2016

Book Time!: Bathing the Lion by Jonathan Carroll

I found out about the author Jonathan Carroll from my local library. At the downtown library, throughout the fiction section, they have little placards where the staff recommends certain authors and explains why. By Murakami's name, the placard not only endorsed him but also recommended some similar authors including Jonathan Carroll. Murakami is pretty much my all time favorite author so I was excited to get immersed in fantastical worlds of Murakami-esque authors.

The first book I read by Jonathan Carrol was 'The Wooden Sea.' I think this is still my all time favorite by him. The Wooden Sea is actually number three in a series. I usually never read books in a series out of order. I only do this if I don't realize they are part of a series. Unfortunately, this has happened more times than I like to admit. But despite not reading the other two books, I was still enthralled!

But it had been several years since I've read any work by Carroll when I found myself bookless. It is an awful feeling to not be immersed in a book and to not have one lined up to read next. I decided to fix this conundrum by exploring my neighborhood library. Last time I did this, I left the library with a mystery novel that ended up being torture porn. The mystery itself was intriguing, but the descriptions of torture were so intense and awful, I could no longer read the book, and still shutter at the memory of the descriptions. Even worse then the shuttering, I still don't know 'who-dunnit!"  With this memory in mind, I tentatively chose another book at my local branch, but at least this time by an author I was familiar with who had never described any sort of torture in previous readings of his novels.

The book itself was quite interesting and fantastical! It is a little bit sci fi, a little bit fantasy, a little bit mystery and a lot of surreal strangeness! The story starts out on a couple on the verge of a divorce. We slowly learn more about the couple, their life together and their life away from each other. We meet some of their friends and colleagues. But then weird things slowly seep into their ordinary world! The two main characters Dean and Vanessa get whisked away in a dream like narrative, and soon their reality becomes a dream like world. But as Dean, Vanessa, and their friends discover, their is logic behind the dream world, their is control behind that which seems wild. We soon learn of those whose responsibility it is to keep the world ordered: The Mechanics. I don't want to give away too much though!

Sometimes I dislike stories that rely to heavily on dreams within their narratives. But the dream worlds of 'Bathing the Lion' had enough threads of logic and enough connection the the characters waking life, that it felt interesting and impactful rather than a needless diversion.

One theme this book explores is identity. If we don't remember who we were in the past, how does this effect who we are now? If we are one person living one life in a dream, how much of that world we imagined and the person we are in our mind reflects the person we are in reality? In a dream we may love people we don't love and hate people we don't hate. What do these feelings we experience in our dreams mean for our waking life. For the two main characters in Bathing the Lion, Vanessa and Dean, they feel different about their relationship in their dreams than they do in their reality.

My favorite character was Dean's dog-loving colleague: Kaspar. One thing I have noticed about many of Carroll's books is he often has characters with really positive relationships with dogs. It is easy to tell Carroll has great respect for our canine companions. I always respect an author that infuses compassion for animals among their works. Carroll's dogs have souls that are just as developed and real feeling as his human characters. Carroll's dogs aren't tokens. They aren't gimmicks to make the readers go "Awww! Shucks dogs are cute!" They are dynamic characters with hearts and feelings. Carroll views dogs the way the world should view dogs. In 'Bathing the Lion,' Kaspar has a pit bull friend whose presence in the world makes it a more wonderful place.

Overall, 'Bathing the Lion' was a really entertaining read. I felt I was on a whimsical adventure! I would recommend this book to people who like the fantastical, and realities that aren't quite realistic. And of course to dog lovers!

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