Literary musings

On Sunday I started reading a book I purchased early last year, “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini.  It’s a wonderful debut by a young man from rural Montana.  I haven’t had much time to read since I bought it, but I managed to read a bit yesterday while at work.  I read a little over 100 pages—not many, but as much as I could while monitoring laborers.  The novel is a fantasy about a 15-year-old boy named Eragon who finds an egg that hatches into a dragon.  Set in the mythical land of Alagaësia, it is the story of how dragons and dragon riders are reborn in an age when evil rules the land.  Touted as an epic reminiscent of J.R.R. Tolkien‘s works, the book is influenced by many fantasy classics, including the “Lord of the Rings” and “Dragonriders of Pern” series by Anne McCaffrey

I chose to read this book for three reasons.  First, I have long been a fan of fantasy and science fiction books.  I especially enjoyed reading C.S. Lewis ’ “Chronicles of Narnia,”  Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Piers Anthony’s “Xanth” and “Incarnations of Immortality” series, Terry Brooks’ “Shannara” series, and David Edding’s “Belgariad” and “Mallorean” series.  My love of fantasy began when I read Lloyd Alexander’s “The Black Cauldron” while in elementary school.  Although some would disagree with me, I still regard David Eddings’ twin series to be the prieminent works in the fantasy genre.  I remember reading the entire five-book “Belgariad” series in one weekend as a kid (I read a lot).  I digested fantasy novels as quickly as I could afford to buy them.  I rarely have time to read novels anymore.  Any reading time is usually spent studying foreign languages or perusing magazines.  I can’t remember the last novel I read.  Perhaps it was “Memoir of a Geisha,” an excellent debut novel by William Golding about the life of geisha in Japan from the 1920s to the 1950s.  Regardless, I rarely read anything in the fantasy genre anymore.  I did read J.K. Rowling’s "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone" a couple years ago.  It was an enjoyable, easy read, but it lacked an epic struggle I always enjoy in a fantasy series.  Rowling’s villian Valdemort is too abstract a character, and Harry Potter is too front and center in the series.  Paolini’s "Eragon" is an excellent debut for a young writer, but it too lacks the depth of earlier fantasy series.

I also chose to read "Eragon" because the author’s story personally resonates with me.  Christopher Paolini grew up in a place I know well, Paradise Valley, Montana.  I also spent some of my childhood in Montana, and I see vivid images of Montana thread throughout his story.  Someone who has read “Eragon” but has never visited Montana might not pick up on the allegories of rural Montana he weaved into his story.  I can picture the mountains that surround the area where he grew up, the streams, forests, and valleys.  I can imagine the subsistence farming and farm life that he saw around him while growing up in rural Montana.  Paolini was just 15 when he began writing his story.  Not coincidentally, his protagonist is 15 years old.  Eragon is Paolini’s alter ego, and the dragon is the mythical friend that Paolini imagined as he read books such as “Dragonriders of Pern” amidst the majestic countryside surrounding him.  Palancar Valley in the story is none other than his very own Paradise Valley.  Paolini’s own story makes me wonder about a life that wasn’t meant to be for me.  I was also a teen with a vivid imagine and a penchant for enjoying fantasy.  I immersed myself in reading, and I loved creative writing.  The dust now covers the many fantasy stories that I wrote and never published.  One of my stories written years ago actually reminds me of “Eragon”—it features a naïve boy with a strong sense of wonder and a search for destiny, a youth stuck in a place where he doesn’t belong who is suddenly ripped away from all he has known, thrust involuntarily into an epic adventure.  Paolini must have felt the same way as Eragon, and he found it cathartic to draw from his own life experiences when writing his book.  I know he did, because did too I when I was young.  Paolini probably felt that he was “stuck” in rural Montana, and he escaped from its mundanity by reading about fantasy worlds far beyond Paradise Valley.  He turned his story into a gem of a book that is now a critical and financial success.  My own stories are still sitting on a shelf, waiting to be polished and published.  

Finally, reading Paolini’s book inspires me to write.  Paolini represents to me someone I could have been—a professional author.  Instead, I chose this life.  I don’t regret my choice at all.  Here I am in Korea living a great life.  Paolini is a bit of an alternate reality for me, representing a life that never was.  Fate has a funny way of messing with you.  Ten years ago I made a fateful choice not to do what I am doing now.  My life came full circle, and here I am living one of my dreams.  Writing professionally is another dream of mine, and something in my mind tells me that someday I will.  I do want to return to writing fiction.  This blog sustains me while I only have a little time to write.  Someday I will return to writing full time and will publish a novel.  I have some great ideas.  It is amazing to me to see how many of my ideas have turned up in popular books and movies.  Unfortunately, many are dated, and I have not had an original idea for a long, long time.  Time and responsibility have dulled my creative mind.  I used to daydream about great, lofty ideas, and now I am resigned to focus on day to day tasks.  Still, I’ve never lost my desire to write stories.  One of my dreams is to walk into a bookstore and see one of my books featured at the front of the store.  It won’t happen anytime soon, if ever, but I will continue to hope…and write.

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