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Three volumes to add to ‘must-read’ list

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The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Jean-Dominique Bauby

On December 8, 1995, the editor of popular fashion magazine French Elle suffered a massive stroke and slipped into a coma. When the 42-year-old woke up, he found himself trapped inside his own body - fully cognizant, but unable to speak or move, with the exception of the ability to blink one eyelid.

Over two years, Jean-Dominique Bauby composed “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” using only his left eye to communicate.

It was fascinating to journey with Bauby into the deepest corners of his imagination, the only escape from tragic circumstances. In his mind, Bauby is everything from the director of a classic film to the chef of a meat spread so vividly described I could almost taste it.

Bauby’s memoir is peppered heavily with cynical, sarcastic, and darkly humorous stories and observations, which only intensify the impact of his account. He speculates sarcastically that hospital “tourists” (short-term patients) must be very worried about fire because they look awkwardly to the ceiling’s fire detectors every time he glances their way.

Despite Bauby’s humorous anecdotes, the story itself is ultimately heartbreaking. Bauby describes the despair of watching his young children play, unable interact with them. He confides in the reader the sadness of Sunday, the day each week when visitors are rare, when he is left by himself for hours.

Bauby’s devastating realization that the world is continuing smoothly without him should resonate with anyone who has ever feared being forgotten.

Revealing, humorous, nostalgic, and devastating, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” is a must-read for anyone desiring an incredibly compelling, and inevitably quick, read.

His Dark Materials
The Golden Compass; The Subtle Knife; The Amber Spyglass
Philip Pullman

This winter, when the movie “The Golden Compass” came out, I was intrigued because of my love of fantasy film and also by all the religious groups that were calling for a boycott. So, not to be left in the dark about all this controversy, I picked up Philip Pullman’s trilogy “His Dark Materials,” which includes “The Golden Compass.”

I had heard that Pullman considered himself the ‘anti-C.S. Lewis’ and, being a big Lewis fan, I started reading the trilogy expecting to be impressed by Pullman’s writing.

I have to say that overall the first book of the series (“The Golden Compass”) lived up to my expectations. It was a great, easy fantasy read if you don’t mind the anti-Church slants that are characteristic of atheist Pullman’s writing.

Pullman drifts through the second book of the trilogy (“The Subtle Knife”) without any big developments in the plot. In the final book (“The Amber Spyglass”), the event that has been talked about through the entire trilogy finally occurs and I had to reread the section because I missed it the first time. I’m sure anyone who read the religious group’s reasons for not seeing the movie already know what I’m talking about.

Overall I think these are very adult books that deal with mature themes and ideas that have been marketed to children. If you’re looking for C.S. Lewis’ amazing allegorical writing style, it is completely lacking. It was an interesting read but don’t expect a lot.

The Children’s Hospital
Chris Adrian

Have you ever had the experience of picking up a random CD or trying a new author you knew nothing about only to fall completely in love with the work? That’s exactly what happened to me when I took a chance on Chris Adrian’s remarkable novel “The Children’s Hospital.”

Equal parts emergency room trauma and post-apocalyptic drama, Adrian’s tale follows the story of Jemma Claflin, a young medical student who has the unique task of rebooting the human race when a flood of biblical proportions wipes out all civilization save the children’s hospital in which she currently works. The hospital’s employees and patients form a fascinating microcosm, frequently interrupted by the guidance (or discouragement) of four mysterious angels.

Before you zone out and decide you might as well read the book of Revelation, note that Adrian trumps the apostle John in the areas of character development and overall wit. He expertly weaves his way through a staggering cast of characters, each one more palpable than the last.

There’s Rob, Jemma’s emotionally needy boyfriend who seems to be more affected by the end of the world than she is, Vivian, her straightforward best friend who still finds ways to sleep around despite the fact that she is running out of options on a floating intensive care unit, and Calvin, her deceased brother whom Adrian skillfully sneeks into the plot in an utterly astonishing fashion.

What is truly extraordinary about “The Children’s Hopsital” is the ambition of its monumental scope (it weighs in at a whopping 615 pages). Adrian has crafted a novel with scriptual flavor that would put Tolstoy to shame. This is a book for adverturous readers looking for a story that will captivate their attention until the very end.

February 28, 2008

•Adjuncts increase faculty numbers
•Belmont displays flag, but student says it could be more visible
•Conference preps music industry hopefuls
•Fall break clears campus for debate
•Journalists, debaters win
•Online contests draw BU talent
•‘Think pink’ brings awareness of breast cancer

•Ring show promise to remain chaste

•Can’t hear the teacher with beans in your ears
•Gen Y, it’s time to step up
•Is Belmont’s text message alert a flawed system?
•Ron Paul supporter takes issue with ‘Vision’ political story
•Toward pedagogical progress: in support of Mark McEntire
•The view from here: Iraq 2003-2008
•Time to text, time to call, and time to shut up

•Dance show explores body, soul
•Pearl Jam, Metallica on tap for Bonnaroo
•Pop profundity
•Three volumes to add to ‘must-read’ list
•Waggoner tour comes to Nashville

•Bruins guard Rockwell has strong bonds with adoptive family, Belmont friends
•‘Mean Bruiser’ one big, bad, blue bear