I'm getting ridiculously behind on book-blathering. I've got a stack of four or five physical books I've read over the past few months and have yet to mention here, as well as an eBook that I've finished and have yet to mention1. This writeup was finished weeks ago and has been languishing, un-posted, since then. I have no excuse. I'm a bad, bad person.
So without further ado, here's are my thoughts - written weeks ago - on Jake, Lucid Dreamer by Dr David J. Naiman (AKA David Z Hirsch, author of the previously mentioned Didnt get Frazzled).
A few months ago, I talked about an eBook I read over the Christmas Holiday, Didn't Get Frazzled. It was a book I enjoyed a lot, but was way too adult to share with my kids. If you felt the same way, then do I have the book for you: Jake, Lucid Dreamer. Dr. Dave has come out from behind his pseudonym (David Z Hirsch) to write a book for kids under his read name, Dr David J. Naiman, about middle-school aged kids. There is some light profanity in the text, but no words beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet. And there's no sex or child-inappropriate material.
My biggest complaint about the book is the title. The story itself is great, but I would never pick up a book called "anything, Lucid Dreamer." It just seems too literal. Imagine if The Catcher in the Rye had been titled Holden, Prep School Dropout or Holden, Unstable Teenager. I doubt I'd have four copies of that sucker around the house, had it been less creatively-named.
But if you can get past the title, and endure through the Xanth-esque dream sequences, you'll find a great story about dealing with loss and the importance of being introspective enough to identify your own...issues. The dream sequences are important to the story, despite their ridiculousness, and get more meaningful as the story progresses. But first, here's a glimpse into the most Xanth-like dream sequence from the story. I may not be providing enough context to follow along, but here it is...
"It's right over there." The bull points his knobby arm.
When I step around him to look, he shoves me onto the ground. A pack of hands ambush me like starved piranhas, tugging me in all directions, pinching and scratching. The bull snickers. "You've played right into my hands."
I swat away the hands that try to latch on to my face, but like when I battled the foot swarm a few nights ago, using force gets me nowhere.
"You're no match for me." The bull releases another haughty snort.
... [I clipped the mid-section of the quote in the name of brevity]
The bull snorts. "What do you think you're doing?"
I seize the hand on top. "Now I've got the upper hand. You never should have shown me the key - you tipped your hand. And now I'm going to tip the rest of them." I give the stack a shove, and the hands crash onto the floor. Their fingers writhe in the air like capsized beetles.
"I've won hands down," I say. "Now hand it over."
The bull sulks. "I've got to hand it to you," he says, untying the hand behind his back. I snatch the key from its fingers and make for the portal, beckoning Ginny. "Let's get out of here before we're arrested by the Pun Police."
"There are Pun Police?"
Oops. I should not have said that. Behind us, the Pun Police race forward, shaking their batons. I jiggle the key into the slot, but the lock is sticky. The Pun Police close in fast. We're running out of time."
On top of the dealing-with-loss theme, which is a major story element that isn't immediately obvious and only gradually becomes apparent, there's an interesting look at what it's like to have your feet in multiple cultures (Jake, our story's hero, has a Chinese mother and caucasian father - which is straight from Dr Dave's life, he's a white guy with an Asian wife). That said, there isn't really much discussion of race outside of Jake's own familial observations. here's one taken from a scene with Jake's maternal grandmother.
Pau Pau likes to say that the Chinese food served in America isn't real Chinese food because Americans' tastes are so different, but I don't think that's the reason. I'm American and this stuff tastes good to me. The problem is that it's so complicated. You'd have to stick a Chinese person at every table just to make sure the food's being eaten correctly.
No, pick it like this from the other end. That's the juiciest part. Wait, pluck out the bone slivers so you don't bleed internally. No, no. Wrong sauce. That one'll blow your head off.
Please. If you can't scoop a handful of grub and cram it directly into your mouth hole, just forget it. This is America: strap on your feedbag and flick on your computer. Don't worry about indigestion. There'll be plenty of pop-up ads for any pill you want.
"Who's ready for dessert?"
I'm ready to explode, but yeah, bring it. Pau Pau sets out every sweet permutation of rice cake, red bean, almond paste, and sugar ever invented over the last millennia behind the Great Wall. And unlike the dinner food, this stuff you can shovel right in. My white half is pleased."
Though I can't say I've ever learned a thing from a dream, apparently Jake's ability to dream lucidly has him learning new life lessons just about every night. Here's a dream sequence that has Jake getting introspective with Ginny the GPS, one of his dream buddies who has a real-life counterpart in the story.
"I am sick of everyone trying to put me in a box. Have you ever felt that way? Like you're stuck in a box and can't get out?"
"Can't say I have."
"Huh, I though you could relate."
"Not really." I lift the GPS unit with the hand not still petting the bazookapus. "I don't live in a box."
"Don't be so sure. There are all kinds of boxes. When people see you in a certain way, it's difficult to get them to realize there's more to you than that. You wind up buying into it and acting the way they expect you to. I think you've been stuck in a box for a long time."
So what is lucid dreaming? It wasn't a term I was familiar with before reading this story. I assume it's a real thing (Dr Dave is a real doctor, after all), so here's a conversation between Jake and his dad to that help explain it.
"If you say so. You probably won't believe this part either. Over the last week, when I'm dreaming, I realize I'm dreaming during the dream, and I can take control of my body."
"Seriously? You're a lucid dreamer?"
"I'm a...wait, that's a thing?"
"Sure. It's called lucid dreaming. Most people can't do it. In fact, most people don't believe it's even possible. I'd never met anyone who could until -""
There was one scene in the book that really hit me right in the old cardiovascular organ - the scene is with Jake, his Dad, and his younger sister. I don't know what you'll get out of it without context, but reading it still makes me a little...emotional.
When I gaze into her eyes, all my excuses wither to nothing. Why? I don't remember. Did I even have a reason? Yeah, all I thought about was myself. "I'm so sorry, Em. I didn't understand. I was being mean." Her expression causes me physical pain. I glance down at the carpet. "I'm a terrible brother."
She marches right toward me. I figure she's going to hit me, and I decide I'll let her. Go ahead, right in the face. I have it coming. Instead, she lays Beenie on my chest. "You can keep Beenie as long as you want." Emma positions her ridiculous monkey so it looks like Beenie's hugging me. "She'll make you feel better."
I wish Emma had hit me. It would have hurt less.
"That's very sweet," Dad says. "Jake, what do you say to your sister?"
I pluck Beenie off my chest. "I don't want to hug Beenie." Emma looks crushed. I put out my arms. "I want to hug you."
She rushes over and leaps on me. She's soft and warm like Mom. She's my Beenie."
So, in summary, two thumbs up for this book. It's probably better suited for kids than adults because of all the ridiculous dream sequences. But if you can suffer through those (or if you are a fan of Piers Anthony's brand of silliness, as I very much was in my youth), it will be worth it.
Despite having many more things to ramble on about, I'm going to stop here because I really havent organized any of my thoughts/photos for those rants. Sorry, Tim, there won't be any new workplace observations today. I've got a long laundry list of complaints and office-observations that I may soon complain about, but now is definitely not the time. Send me an e-mail and I'll fill you in, in the meantime. I was just having an e-mail conversation with Paul about recent All-Hands announcements. I figured you already have an inside source who was feeding you the same info.
1 For the record, the books I've recently read, yet neglected to comment on, are:
Take Back the Sky (Greg Bear)
The House of Secrets (Brad Meltzer)
Star Wars, The Last Jedi (Jason Fry)
Dragon Teeth (Michael Crichton)
All You Can Worry About is Tomorrow (R.D. Hubbard)
And the one recently read eBook:
The Cup in the Shadows (The Forbidden Powers) (R. Kane Maurer)