Life is amazingly sweet at times, and I'm enjoying one of those times right now.
My new book is out, and not only is it getting great reviews, but it's getting the kinds of reviews I hoped it would get. (Few reactions are more complicated than mine when I read a positive review by someone who apparently read a book that had nothing in common with the one I thought I'd written--and it happens more often than you might assume.)
Lots of reviewers have concluded their pieces with a reference to the book's stand on the War on Terror, which can probably be best described as complex and melancholy. Several have noted, with some precision, my fear that in pursuing the war as we have, we may have done more damage to ourselves, both politically and morally, than we have to the terrorists who were our presumable targets. Others have quoted, at some length, Poke's musing on Power in the Dark and/or other passages that examine the point to which I fear we've come. That means a lot to me.
Still others have picked out some of the characters I love best from the book: Vladimir, Ming Li, the tragic Treasure, and even Murphy himself, the most fearsome villain I've written but--according to many reviewers--one who is also deserving of our pity. That's what I wanted, but I didn't dare to think I'd done it. (Still don't, actually.)
So, when we're happy, good things of all kinds reveal themselves to us. For example:
The Decemberists' astonishing LP, "The King Is Dead." Four songs from that collection, "Don't Carry It All," "Calamity Song," "January Hymn," and "June Hymn" are my current reminders that human beings actually can achieve something close to perfection. The more I listen, the more beauty is revealed--and they rock, too.
Tom Petty's ever-golden LP "Wildflowers," which I downloaded and heard for the first time only last week and which has absolutely eaten up the miles between bookstores. I've actually caught myself going YeeeHAWWWWW several times, and that's well outside the margins of my usual behavior.
Ace Atkins' second Quinn Colson novel, The Lost Ones. I've been a big Atkins fan for a few years, but this book caught me off guard. I'm sure there's something wrong with it, but I guess I missed it.
Booksellers in cities large and small, bless them. Every time I do one of these marathons I'm flabbergasted all over again by how much these people love books and by how much of their lives and energies they invest in businesses that are barely profitable, but where they get to make introductions between readers and books. I have a secret list of things that should immediately qualify people for heaven, and good booksellers do one of them over and over all day long.
Gustave Klimt, just because his best paintings present the most beautifully decorative surfaces I've been able to think of for a few days. (He turned 150 a week or so ago.)
Isaac Stern, who for decades made God (or at least Beethoven and Bach) speak through the violin and worked tirelessly to help young violinists improve their connection to the divine (and it was his birthday on Saturday).
The little Asian girl, maybe nine years old, whom I saw yesterday near the fountain outside Book Frog in Rolling Hills Estates, California, where I had just signed books. She was sitting on a bench in a prim little pink dress with her hands folded properly in her lap while rowdy littler kids ran and played in the geysers of water. When a three-year-old slipped and fell down and started to cry, she ran into the fountain and sat in the water and put her arms around the crying child and rocked him until his frightened mother got there. Then she got up, her dress soaked, and went back and sat on her bench again. That kid is going to have to do some really serious wrong not to get gold-passed into heaven, and without having to line up at the velvet rope.
Hope life is good for all of you.
Tim -- Sundays