Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine de St-Exupery. This was written by the same fellow as The Little Prince, which you have heard of if you've ever taken a French course. A bit different from a children's book, Wind Sand and Stars is a memoir of sorts of St-Exupery's experiences as a mail pilot in the 1920s and 30s, with a fair amount of the type of philosophy you'd expect a man who has a job where people regularly disappeared forever. Mostly it's set along the flight paths from Toulouse to Casablanca, but there are other segments in South America; he tells a story of a colleague who crashed in the mountains--in winter, and walked out five days later. The bulk of the book is about St-Exupery's own big crash in the Libyan desert, starvation, dehydration, eventual chance rescue by a random Bedouin. Wonderful stuff, really. Because I happen to have brought St-Ex to work with me, you get a sample:
[There is an unexpected gathering of pilots in hostile ground: a plane was sent down, and then the rescue plane broke, and then it was dark by the time the third arrived.] "Sitting in the flickering light of the candles on this kerchief of sand, on this village square, we waited in the night. We were waiting for the rescuing dawn -- or for the Moors. Something, I know not what, lent this night a savor of Christmas. We told stories, we joked, we sang songs....
"Happiness! It is useless to seek it elsewhere than in the warmth of human relations. Our sordid interests imprison us within their walls. Only a comrade can grasp us by the hand and haul us free.
"And these human relations must be created. One must go through an apprenticeship to learn the job. Games and risks are a help here. When we exchange manly handshakes, compete in races, join together to save one of us who is in trouble, cry aloud for help in the hour of danger--only then do we learn that we are not alone on earth.
"Each man must look to himself to teach him the meaning of life. It is not something discovered: it is something moulded. These prison walls that this age of trade has built up round us, we can break down. We can still run free, call to our comrades, and marvel to hear once more, in response to our call, the pathetic chant of the human voice."
Yeah. I read it twice in a week.
The other book I have now finished for the third damn time in two weeks. (the first two readings were about 15 hours apart, but only because I had to sleep and work.) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, hit me rather hard between the eyes. This will come as no suprise to one of you, who told me about this book in the nineth grade, but I don't think I would have been ready for it then. I needed to wait until I knew more about the nature of stories and fairytales, and until I had been working straight night shifts for the better part of two years and understood how it feels to drop out of the world in a lot of ways. So. um. yeah. Fucking wow. It's the first book since I read October Country as a kid that lit the same kind of fire that those Ray Bradbury stories did in me. Maybe it's the first book in a long time to make me feel like a kid again.
Those of you who know it don't need me to talk about it. Those of you who don't, probably should have bought it yesterday.