Right in the middle of walking to meet a friend for coffee a book title popped into my head. James Hilton's Lost Horizon.
I first read Lost Horizon back in grade school. Don't make me tell you how long ago that was. In those days, we were given a required reading list at the very beginning of the school year. And each time we finished a book we had to hand in a review. All the books were available at the school library.
The required reading list was the best part of school for me. It was supposed to take you the entire school year to complete, but I'd usually motored through it well before Christmas break and always went and asked the teacher for more. She didn't always have "appropriate books" for my age and I'd get really frustrated.
That's when I'd rummage through my parents' bookcase and also my aunt's, who was a voracious reader like I was. It was thanks to her I read Lady Chatterly's Lover when I was about 11 years old, not that she knew I'd found it, not that she would necessarily have stopped me if she had. She and I used to have wonderful conversations about the books we'd read. Little did we know that groups of readers would, one day, regularly get together to do exactly what we were doing.
Back to Lost Horizon
I don't know what it was about this book that so resonated with me. I fell instantly in love with it, and couldn't put it down until I'd finished it. I know I drove my mother insane because I'd pick it up the minute I got home from school, I'd bring it to meals with me and I stayed up far too late at night reading.
I thought because my door was closed I was getting away with it. Not. She could see the light through the crack at the bottom of the door and would knock every 15 minutes, insisting I go to sleep.
Over the years I figure I've re-read that book maybe 20, 30 times. Which in itself is more than a little strange, although having said that, I re-read books all the time; and re-watch movies too. But this one I know so well I could probably recite it from memory.
Then again, who wouldn't want to find inner peace, love and the secret to eternal life?
Among other things, this is a story about finding inner peace, love, a sense of purpose and, the secret to living for hundreds of years. Where? In a magical, mystical paradise high in the mountains of Tibet. Shangri-La, a fictional location but, according to Wikipedia, one that was "inspired in part by the Tibetan borderlands."
I'm a dreamer, always have been. I love everything about Shangri-La and I think in some ways I've been searching for it my whole life. Before you tell me that "Shangri-La is not a place, it's a state of mind, of being and it lives in all of us" scroll up and look at the photo. That's a real monastery. Tell me you wouldn't want to be there, right now. Maybe it's time for me to plan a trip.
What a respite it would be from this angry, turbulent, ugly, unhappy, tortured, stressed-out world we seem to find ourselves in right now. Maybe that's why the book popped into my head the other day. I'm unconsciously looking for an escape from it all.
So I've decided to give myself permission to take a couple of days off from writing my own book to re-read Lost Horizon for the umpteenth time.
Did you know, by the way, that there are two film versions, one made by Frank Capra in 1937 and another by Charles Jarrot, in 1973? I've haven't seen either, and don't particularly want to. I'd much rather be transported to Shangri-La through the pictures James Hilton created with words, and my own imagination.
Are there any books you've loved so much you read them over and over again?
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