Some of the best life lessons can be learnt from books meant for children (seriously, if more people brought up their kids using Harry Potter as a parenting road map, the world would be a happier, more settled place).
All it takes is an adult or a child with an averagely sensitive radar to pick up the signals sent out from the new breed of kid-lit books which are flooding bookstores.
But for the sixth instalment of Eoin Colfer’s Fowl series, Artemis Fowl and the Time Paradox, you won’t even need an averagely sensitive radar. A broken one will also do, because there’s no missing what Colfer has to say.
Everyone’s favourite juvenile criminal Artemis Fowl has only himself to blame for the mess he’s in this time around. Karma has come to bite him in the a**; he has to battle his evil 10-year-old self (who has time-travelled to the future) to get hold of a monkey which might save his mother’s life. Problem is, 10-year-old Arty was craftier, evil-er, ruthless-er—in general, a lot more criminal-er than his 14-year-old future self (see kids, that shows you should never get complacent or your talents will rot). But Artemis’ problem is not that he’s complacent, but that he’s now a good guy. Well, almost. To get his way, he does lie shamelessly to his non-human friends—the elf from the Lower Elements police force, Captain Holly Short and Foaly, the centaur gadget-geek.
So, with a little help from humans (the fabulous, frightening and dependable Butler), non-humans (the methane-producing, tunnel-digging dwarf, Mulch Diggums, and the young human-loving demon No. 1), Fowl takes on Fowl.
They encounter a group of animal-hating fanatics who want to eliminate all species of animals which are of no use to humans and re-encounter the crafty Opal Koboi.
All this time-travel business which Colfer puts out is a great way to get your kids to appreciate sci-fi. Like all Artemis Fowl books, this one is a crazy mix of suspense, danger and outwitting the next guy while, behind the scenes, your kid imbibes messages about global warming, deforestation, friendship and family.
On the run
Writer (and Runner)
At Least He Never Walked”
Haruki Murakami wishes this to be the epitaph on his grave. It should be, if the premise of his new book—writing is not possible without running, and life is not possible without writing—is the driving force of his life. Part memoir, part training guide, part pop-philosophical platitudes, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is primarily about pain and the human will to master it.
The author of Kafka on the Shore and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle has been a runner since 1982, when he was 33. In recent years, he has run for an average of 6 miles (9.6km) a day, six days a week, and has competed in more than 20 marathons. In 1996, he completed an ultra-marathon of 62 miles. This book is a lead-up to the New York City Marathon, 2006.
Charles Dickens was known to be a regular walker. He once said, “If I couldn’t walk fast and far, I should just explode and perish.” A similar restlessness propels Murakami to put on his running shoes. But for him, running is not so much a way of channelizing his pent up energies as about making a better writer out of himself. The many parallels in both the disciplines are obvious: The loneliness of a novelist and that of the runner; the pain (in Murakami’s case, extreme pain) of grappling with words is likened to the point in running when his “legs scream” and his muscles feel “as hard as week-old cafetaria bread”; the pressure to clock in a particular number of hours to writing every day is like running that extra mile.
The comparisons end there— running is not a metaphor for anything deeper. The book is peppered not only by life lessons—“In the final analysis we are all the same”, etc.—but by a runner’s mostly banal observations of life and nature while on the go. A non-runner will feel exhausted by Murakami’s physical agony. Don’t run if you don’t want to be a good writer, he unwittingly seems to say.