Thursday, June 12, 2008

Call Me Grownup

What I just read: The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint Exupery.

Six-word synopsis: Little Paulo Coelho's very favorite book.

In retrospect, it seemed like a brilliant idea: I suggested reading The Little Prince for book group. It's a classic. It's short. It would help me ratchet up my numbers for authors from other countries. All the members of BOOKLEAVES went for it.

Sigh. What the hell are they doing, listening to me?

This may be another one of those books I read too late in life. I appreciate the philosophy about how you can only see properly with the heart, rather than the eyes, but the rest of it -- the sheep, the prideful flower, the "types" on their different asteroids, and the constant application of "grownup" as a withering epithet left me cold. My Tough & Cool Inner Bookworm has reassured me that my complete failure to appreciate this gem means that I'm a literary philistine.

I like Saint Exupery. I love his dashing and handsome aviator pictures and it tickles me that France put him on the 50-franc note. I'd like to read about his adventures in his nonfiction books like Night Flight and Wind, Sand and Stars. I'm sorry that his plane mysteriously went down and he died when he was just 44 -- but The Little Prince seems like so much blather. I guess I'm not sensitive and obviously lack finer feelings -- but at least now I know how Paulo Coelho gets away with doing the same stuff over and over.

The next BOOKLEAVES meeting is Sunday. We're skipping our usual venue and going to Dr. Fish. Dr. Fish is also a coffee shop, but the gimmick is that there's a fish pool you can stick your feet in and the fish nibble at the calluses and other nasty buildup on your feet. You're probably wishing that I could somehow stick my heart in the pool and let the fish eat the tough and scaly crud that has grown up around that. I'm just hoping that at least one other person in the group is also a curmudgeon.

What if EVERYONE ELSE loved this book with that quivering, worshipful devotion that it seems to inspire? What if everyone loved it in English and en francaise? (One of the members, Karen, is from Montreal, so she's most likely re-reading Le Petit Prince.) Should I hide my feelings, and doggedly keep my mouth full of the all-you-can-eat jam toast (which includes real butter) that Dr. Fish thoughtfully provides? Should I air my opinion and hope like hell that the other members don't gang up and decide to drown my sorry, unenlightened ass in the fish pool?

I'm going to go now so you can commence feeling overwhelming pity that I'm a grownup and have forgotten all the important things. Meanwhile, I need to read something noir-ish like James M. Cain, Dashiell Hammett, W.R. Burnett or Jim Thompson to take the taste out.


raidergirl3 said...

I too was particularly underwhelmed with the reading of The Little Prince last summer. If we had met for a book club regarding this we would have discussed all the things you just said, and it would have sounded like this: yes! exactly! what's the big deal? I guess we are too old. Cute, but...

So, go to your meeting knowing that others have read it and felt the same way.

Heather J. @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm proud to say that I have NEVER read The Little Prince, either as a child or as an adult, nor do I intend to. I do remember the cartoon being cute, but not life changing.

So you're not alone!

raych said...


I mean, what's the point if you all felt the same way?

I haven't read this yet, and keep meaning too. le sigh, pushing it further down the pile.

Jeane said...

Well, I loved the Little Prince when I was about twelve. Read it several times since for nostalgia (my sisters are very fond of the book, too). But you shouldn't feel bad about sharing your response to it! There's lots of books others rave about that I just can't stand, myself.

Eva said...

I haven't read it since middle school, so I don't know how I'd react to it now. I mean, I liked it then! But I totally agree w/ you re: Antoine de Saint Exupery. I want to read his other, grown-up stuff...I even held a copy of Wind, Sand, and Stars in my hot little hands when I was in Half Price Books in Texas, but I managed to talk myself out of it. *sigh* Oh well-I'm sure my library has it!

And I say go with your true feelings during your book club. I mean, your tough and cool inner bookworm needs a good put-down every now and then! ;)

Unknown said...

Blather? Good word ... and, in my opinion, a good summation of said book. I, too, should probably have read it 15 years ago.

John Mutford said...

All you had to do to steer me clear of the book was mention Coehlo.

Anonymous said...

Oh, thank heaven. Someone else didn't like The Little Prince. I thought it was an overwrought mess, pretty much the way I felt about Holden Caulfield and (on re-reading as a grown up), Heathcliff.

Bybee said...

Yeah, underwhelming and it didn't really rate at all on my Cute-O-Meter, either.

Heather Johnson,
My son mentioned seeing the cartoon when he was a preschooler.

It'll be interesting to see what the other members say about it.

Twelve, hmm? I think I got to it too late. But there's also a part of me that thinks Little Susan would've said: "Icky."

I'm jealous that you saw Wind, Sand and Stars. That's the one about his being lost in the desert.

It kind of had the same effect on me that Jonathan Livingston Seagull had on me back in the day. But some guy on Facebook said that if you can't appreciate TLP, "Your soul is doomed." So I'm a little nervous...

I take it that you're not a Coelho fan?

Carrie K,
I am so relieved. Yeah, I'm shallow and incapable of feeling intensely, but at least I'm not alone!

Anonymous said...

That level of intensity is best left to the young anyway. I'm too tired. ;)

darkorpheus said...

I never read The Little Prince either - but the way people talk about it, got themselves tattooed with Little Prince characters - I thought it was one of those books we have to read to be human.

But then, that's what people tell me about The Alchemist and The Secret and I HATED THEM BOTH.

In a way you just confirmed my worst fears.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm new here! *waves*

Anyway, I read The Little Prince (in English) as a kid, maybe around eight or nine. I was apparently too young, and didn't get it.

Then in high school (age 16), I reread it (in French) and loved it, in spite of the pain of reading anything in French at that point (these days I do better).

It has a place in my heart, but I think you have to be at a certain point in your life and generally sappy (which I am) to like it.

Anonymous said...

Well, I AM in Bybee's bookclub and she DID come and stuff her misopedic face with toast to hide her shame. SHAME!
I can understand Bybee's misgivings towards the colourful allegory and immature sentiments. In a way her defensive reaction is only logical. The Little Prince is about our loss of values as we get older. No one wants to be reminded of that. Right?
It's okay Bybee... I love ya. Even if you are a Child hater! There I said it. ;D