Imagination… In the beginning was the Word… Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy… If music be the food of love, play on,… How many stories are told and re-told. Borrowing from, or building upon, the traditions may be one form of imagination. A new author finds a way to recounting a familiar style of plot or characters, but with some different rhythm or twists.
Everything… This is an ambitious, maybe even arrogant, approach to telling tale. But, two of my favorite characters in literature, Cyrano and Faust, could easily be accused of being know-it-all’s, as if everything were hardly enough for either. I have had enough pots dropped on my head by those who took offense as my wealth of knowledge and sharp wit. If I have bargained with the Devil, I were unaware of the negotiations. Time will tell the fate of my soul.
Ms Graves sets high standards for herself with her book’s title, suggesting that books can relay everything. I like that I idea. My readers probably know that I do not spend a lot of time on fiction, not that I do not enjoy it, but more that I keep getting bogged down in lengthy histories wanting to… well, you know, know everything. Moreover, I do not spend a lot of time with teen-fiction. But, I have corresponded with Ms Graves through our blogs this year, and respected her comments which contained many literary references.
Working my way through Irving Stone’s The Agony and the Ecstasy for a little light reading around Thanksgiving time (to be followed up by Will Durant’s history text of the Italian Renaissance to fact-check the biographical novel about Michelangelo), I picked up a copy of Maya and the Book of Everything to put among my Christmas presents. The bitter cold weather over the Christmas and New Year’s season, gave me leave to curl up with multiple cups of tea and Maya. The only thing I do not know now is when the second volume will come out!
While Yoda will confess that the Jedi texts page-turners are not (The Last Jedi), I did find myself procrastinating on that load of laundry until I finished one more chapter of Maya and the Book of Everything. I enjoyed the incorporation of many familiar characters from Shakespeare’s plays and other classic tales. I’m sure that I missed quite a few references, and am still puzzling over a few (I cannot recall who Mortimer was or what was his tale of origin). I bet one of my librarian friends can refresh my memory.
The book’s plot builds upon familiar youth tales about getting caught up in fixing adult mis-deeds, time-travel, friendships, road-trips, secret powers, and conflicts leading to battles. Honestly, about two-thirds of the way through the book, I thought (arrogantly, given that I know everything) that the ending would be pretty predictable. WRONG. No spoilers here, but I shall say, as Ms. Graves has demonstrated, that we need more thoughtful resolutions to conflict, rather than blowing up those whom we deem to be enemies.
Ms Graves draws in numerous themes that resonate with adolescent readers, and adult who have not become too jaded or distracted by adulthood. Time, Change, Chaos, Thirst for Power, Corruption, Authenticity, Remorse, Redemptions, Forgiveness. But, do not expect a morality play for simple guidance in life. Everything is too complicated for that. Books can give us examples, direction, caution, but like Maya, we have the option to say “No”, and sometime that may be the correct course of action… some times not. (Hint the Book of Everything recommends purchasing a copy for yourself and your favorite librarian)
But, am I just being glowing to pitch a friend’s efforts at delving into youth fantasy genre?
I think back to other stories that have appealed to youth and ask what purpose did these serve that generation? C. S. Lewis wrote the Narnia Chronicles for children who were being sent to the country homes to escape the devastation of London during the Blitz. Star Trek set out to explore space, as ways to resolve conflict between various civilizations, during the Cold War. George Lucas has taken us on a 40 year journey (with at least one more official episode to go) with Star Wars, for a generation mired in self-indulgence, which needs to find purpose and connect with forces beyond our own satisfaction.
I wonder about the coincidence that Maya and the Book of Everything was published in 2016. We have entered an age when tyrants revise history to suit their purposes; When people are marginalized because they do not fit some set of arbitrary attributes; When science is dismissed as “junk”; When facts are scoffed at and replaced with alternative facts. When our youth see how adults are behaving, why would they bother wanting to grow up? Maybe this generation needs a Great Library series as their companion (not a helicopter parent).
Let see, I think I have a book about ecumenical interpretations of beauty to read next. That ought to make my socks go up and down! Well, at least until I find out when the next story by Ms Graves is out.