Thursday, August 16, 2012

Audiobook Review: "The Alchemist," by Paulo Coelho

This book has been on my to-read list forever, even though I knew absolutely nothing about it. (It was mostly the title and it's 'presence' that attracted me. As in, "Yay, a literary book about an alchemist!") So when I saw this on the shelf of the library, I knew I should check it out. On the way from Cleveland to Cincinnati, I popped it in my car, and the mythical prose, read by the voice of Jeremy Irons (Scar in The Lion King), began to carry me away.

Emphasis on "began." Probably the only thing that this book did well was its prose. The protagonist is rarely (or never?) referred to by name. In this way, the author does manage to create an air of legend about the story.

But beyond that? This book is nothing more than faux-intellectual masturbation. The characters spend most of their time discussing vague philosophy: destiny and 'personal legends' and alchemy and 'the Soul of the World' and love and fear and blah, blah, blah. This book goes on and on about not being a victim of Fate and choosing your own destiny, but it's very hypocritical in that the main character hardly ever plays an active role in choosing his destiny. Usually, it's either luck or some mystical figure that prompts him to action. And the love? This is insta-love at its worst. As in "their eyes met and they were in love." Not kidding. And this amazing love interest whom he was always destined to meet has no personality or presence beyond "I love you and want you to pursue your destiny, because that's what REAL MEN OF THE DESERT do." Her entire existence is centered on wanting the man she loves to pursue his destiny. Does she get a destiny too? Fuck if I know, because she's only in the book for about five minutes.

If you're the kind of person who's inspired by vague, semi-hypocritical fictional philosophers, then this book might be for you. But if you're looking for, you know, an actual story with actual substance, don't waste your time.

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