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Thursday, September 28th, 2006

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3:22p
Skipping ahead again ...
You know, I would really prefer it if my reviews here followed along with my finishing books, but I've been hitting a few that I've needed more time to get around to reviewing, right about the same time that I hit others that I'm able to simply spew out an opinion. This is one of those cases. If you want to check the actual reading order, you can always visit my LibraryThing catalog, of course.

I realize that frequently my "book reviews" are more about my reaction to a book than a specific analysis of the book itself, and I'm afraid that this one is going to be very much and example of this tendency. First of all, I have to admit that I have never read the very popular book The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran which is the inspiration for Gunther Schaule's The Prophet Returns. The back cover copy refers to this as a "sequel", but I have a strong suspicion that a better category description would be "fanfic", as I can't imagine that a book that has sold over a million copies (the original The Prophet) is as weak as this seemed to me. Again, having not read Gibran's book, I have no way of knowing if it, too, was simply a treacly bit of newage woo-woo that appealed to a lot of people looking for emotional stimulation, or if it actually is a vehicle for insights of some depth.

This book took an odd route into my library, being a "sample" sent out by a print-on-demand place that I was looking at in the days when I was trying to find ways of saving Eschaton (my old publishing company, for those coming in late). It has been sitting around in various piles of stuff for many years, and recently got "reorganized" into an actual stack of books and caught my eye when I was looking for a "quick read" (it's only like 100 pages) this week to "buffer" the order of other things I'm reading ("it's an OCD thing, you wouldn't understand"). So, this is a book that I didn't actually intend to own, based on another book that I've not read, so my connection with it is at best at some cognitive distance!

I assume that the "parable-like" style of the writing is intended to sound like Gibran's, so I'll give that a pass ... however the main character is constantly talking about his studies at the Library of Alexandria, yet then interjecting commentary about "alcohol and drugs" or concepts derived from modern astrophysics. If Schaule wants to make this an "ancient tale", at least keep the references in the right millennia! Schaule seems to have written this as a way of "revealing" some wisdom from his own head, which appears to be his "six pillars" (work, family, society and body, mind, spirit) model, which is hardly news to anybody even vaguely familiar with even popular metaphysical traditions. Aside from the out-of-time incongruities, there are also many strongly implausible "plot twists" that seem simply to be ways of interjecting a few other secondary points, and most irritating of all was the closing allusions which tie the whole story into the Christian mythos (spoiler: the main characters are Mary's parents).

Back in the day, I saw a lot of manuscripts like this come in from people who thought they had Real Important Things To Say. Of course, back then it was quite an undertaking to self-publish ... The Prophet Returns is a prime example of the downside of how easy it is to get a book printed these days! This Schaule fellow seems to have a telephone business down in Australia that allows him to run his (oh, OK, I'll say it) vanity press on the side, and I'm sure it makes him feel like an Enlightened Spiritual Being (™) to have this book in circulation.

Oddly enough, this is available from Amazon (although they say it takes 4-6 weeks to fill an order, so I guess they have to be shipped from Australia first) and its new/used vendors. Frankly, I couldn't imagine why somebody would want to buy this (unless, I suppose, if one was a big The Prophet junkie and wanted to get anything associated with that), but it will run you $8.95 new and around three bucks used if you were so inexplicably inclined.


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