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Julian Meynell's Books

I like Books.

The Alchemist

The Alchemist - Paulo Coelho This is a crappy self-help book masquerading as a crappy novel.

I didn't know what I was getting into with The Alchemist. I thought that it was magical-realism-lite. However, I began to get seriously worried, when I noticed that it was being compared to The Little Prince and even to The Prophet. It is a kind of fusion between a fairy tale and a Christian parable. Its plot concerns a journey from Spain to The Pyramids. The plot is handily summarized in my edition for those people who missed its complexities. Its written at about a grade eight reading level, but its ideas are not that sophisticated.

When I was younger I used to laugh at books like this, but in my cantankerous dotage I find these kinds of ideas pernicious. (Don't worry the books does not contain big words like those ones.) Its main "philosophy" is basically that if you follow your "personal legend" "the universe will conspire" to make your dreams come true. It won an award from the people at Davos, which shows where it falls in the socioeconomic scheme of things. I read this directly after reading Sophie's Choice and I only wished I had a time machine to go back and tell the victims of the holocaust that the reason they watched their children be murdered is because they were not following their personal legend. It seems that what you gain from following your personal legend is wealth, a set of tiresome fake platitudes and a beautiful but pliable spouse in that order of importance.

The book also has various not very enlightening things to say about metaphysics and religion. It also has a theory of love which I did not understand, but strongly disagree with.

It is the kind of book that appeals to the wives of corporate lawyers who do yoga once a week, because it is spiritual and it tones their abs.

My book has a quote from Madonna about how good and wise the book is. If you think of Madonna as an infallible guide to wisdom and literature you may want to read this book. As for me, I am not usually in favour of burning books, but I am prepared to make an exception with this one.