Inspiration by Paulo Coelho

I’m not one for motivational quotes. Sometimes, I think they’re simplistic and cheesy, but every once in a while, I’ll come across a quote that makes me stop and think and that gives me some hope, strength, or motivation. Usually, these quotes come from books.

paulo coelho

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Fashion: Fall Seven Times

DIY boots! I recently wore this on a windy day to a brunch in Soho with some friends. It was unseasonably warm out a couple weeks ago and I got so excited I decided to put on some flowery shoes! These shoes are actually really comfortable but I had to glue them up a bit more to stop all the fraying. Hopefully the stubborn, crazy strong E-6000 glue holds because I can’t give these shoes up. They’re too pretty.

I can’t wait for spring to really come!

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shoes DIY, top from Garage, skirt from H&M, jacket from Charade

“The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
― Paulo Coelho, Alchemist

The Valkyries: discovering Paulo Coelho

The Valkyries is my third Coelho. I asked for it for Christmas, having picked a Coelho title at random, and now that I’ve read it, I think that it’s perfect that I read this one third, after By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept and The Alchemist. This is the incredibly personal, true story of Paulo Coelho’s life journey from Satan worshiper to spiritual magus, to an emotionally frantic man searching for his guardian angel.

1425To understand this book, you have to have some background knowledge of Coelho’s “religion,” a Christianity-based theology called “the Tradition” that combines spiritual magic and faith in a Christian god. Coelho, in this memoir, recounts his journey to speak to and see his guardian angel. It is a process that involves intense spiritual trials and the ability to challenge your inner demons. It’s about forgiveness, the complexity of the human condition, and the ability to overcome your biggest fears and your most destructive flaws. In these ways, the book excels. It speaks to the human condition in the way it reminds us that each of us has the tendency to “kill what we love the most.” But this is about Coelho specifically, and the book almost never strays into the general: this novel is all about Coelho and his past.

In the beginning of the novel, Coelho meets with his master, a man called J. He receives directions to travel from Brazil to the Mojave Desert, to speak to and to meet his angel in person. This feat is a huge accomplishment for Coelho, and he’s anxious to achieve it. He’s proud and impatient, displaying an arrogance not apparent in the writing style of his other novels.

Coelho brings his wife Christina with him on this 40-day journey, for he fears that his dissatisfaction with married life will be dissolved if he manages to meet his angel and therefore change his flawed personality. Coelho has the tendency to “kill what he loves the most” and before he succumbs to this weakness and leaves his beloved wife because of boredom or childishness, he wants to confront his demons and hopefully reverse the self-destructive path he is on. It’s a brave journey, but it also displays Coelho’s huge weaknesses, and the novel is almost too personal in the way it describes his marriage to Christina.

I have won important things for myself, but I’m going to destroy them, because I tell myself they have lost their meaning. I know that is not true. I know they are important, and that if I destroy them, I’ll be destroying myself, as well.

So where do the Valkyries come in? The Valkyries is a traveling band of leather-wearing, motorcycle-riding women who preach up and down the Mojave Desert and its surrounding areas. Led by a woman named Valhalla, the Valkyries adopt Coelho when they realize he is of their “Tradition” and guide him through the trials necessary for him to finally meet his angel. Valhalla also tests his fidelity and his dedication to his wife. And Christina, who never really believed in her husband’s magic at all, begins to feel her worldview changing and widening, engaging in her own spiritual journey that seemed to me more rich and rewarding than Coelho’s.

They had seen the same mountains, and the same trees, although each of them had seem them differently. She knew his weaknesses, his moments of hatred, of despair. Yet she was there at his side. They shared the same universe.

I thought this novel afforded me singular access to Coelho’s spiritual journey, his personality, his struggles, his magic, and his humanity. His humanity included his many, many flaws, such as his boredom in marriage and his tendency to “kill what he loves the most.” But I appreciated his struggle and that he had the forethought and the self-awareness to break the self-destructive path he was on to preserve those things he knows he will regret abandoning. I felt in the first half of the novel that I had gotten to know Coelho as a man rather than just a novelist or spiritual figure. This novel is like reading a journal. Or a blog 😉

However, I found myself relating to Christina more than Paulo. Her spiritual journey is less about proving her power than it is about discovering herself and who she wants to be. Her journey was graceful, open-minded, and not the frantic, chaotic journey Coelho has. I think that’s the point: Christina is written as an incredibly forgiving, strong character willing to stand by her husband despite her flaws, despite her sense that their marriage is indeed crumbling.

Reading this novel did shatter that blind admiration I had for Coelho after reading those first two novels, but it also elicited a strong feeling of respect. Penning this book required a huge amount of courage and self-awareness, knowing that your personal life and past indiscretions will be read by all your fans. This novel let me discover Coelho the man more than the other two I’d read, and it makes me eager to read his other novels now, knowing what I know about the author. This closeness is what separates Coelho from other authors: the work is almost indistinguishable from the man, which makes for an altogether different reading experience. It is a bit like reading a diary, albeit slightly fictionalized.

In the end, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed The Alchemist because the reader cannot so easily understand the arcane trials and Coelho’s personal “Tradition.” You can’t be the “boy” in this book as you could with The Alchemist. And while the tone comes off as both apologetic and rebellious, I did gain new insight into a new favorite author and found the experience rewarding. More Coelho in future 🙂

References

Coelho, P. The Valkyries. (1996) New York, NY: HarperCollins.

"The Alchemist" and Achieving Dreams

I’m surprised it took me this long to read The Alchemist. The back cover of my edition features the hyperbolic blurb, “Every few decades a book comes along that changes the lives of its readers forever.” When I read that I thought a sarcastic, “yeah, okay.” But now, a few days later, I must happily eat my words.

It’s not that the book has changed my life, but its simple, inspiring message has caused a subtle but significant shift in my perspective. It all began with the introduction, written by Coelho himself. He discusses one’s calling in life and though he couches it in spiritual/semi-religious terms, it will resonate with anyone who has ever harbored a dream that seems impossible. For artists, especially, it feels especially relevant:

However, we don’t all have the courage to confront our own dream…There comes a time when our personal calling is so deeply buried in our soul as to be invisible. But it’s still there…[We] must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know that the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how. (vii)

tumblr_m5hlnzYdqg1qbaom0The simple, unbearable truth hidden in this novel is that our dream is possible, that it is we who frustrate the reaching of our goals and dreams because we are afraid. The universe, ruled in Coelho’s perspective by a higher being, wants us to achieve our calling. The universe will conspire to help us achieve it. Coelho says that because we expect the world to be harsh and hostile, it becomes that way through fear and inaction. If we work to achieve our goals and remain hopeful, they are absolutely within reach.

Soooo, that was the introduction. The theme carries throughout the narrative, however. We meet Santiago, a shepherd boy in the hills of Andalusia. He has already changed the trajectory of his life by eschewing a priesthood and becoming a shepherd so he could travel and see the world. He has a recurring dream of visiting the Egyptian Pyramids, has his dream interpreted by a Gypsy woman, and embarks on a quest of faith to find a treasure hidden at the Pyramids.

The novel reads like a parable the way Coelho refers to Santiago as “the boy” throughout. It’s a beautiful story about having faith in oneself and in the beauty of the earth. The language Coelho uses and the events that occur infuse the story with a sense of magic and spirituality. This kind of spirituality is inclusive of all religions and denominations; in fact, Coelho constantly emphasizes the connection that exists between people and the earth, people and other people, history and the future. Coelho himself expresses the belief that there is one Being, and that all religions manifest the same truth in different ways. The product of this belief is a novel like The Alchemist, which speaks to all people about letting go of fear to achieve their greatest potential.

I found this novel absolutely enchanting. I think this novel speaks to the power of spirituality and faith. I’ve heard much criticism about this novel, that it’s childish, self-help-bookish, etc. but I think its message is worth hearing. I know I found it worthwhile. Coelho has enchanted me before and I am confident he will in future.

The Valkyries is accompanying me to Alaska. When you read this I’ll probably already be finished (feverish plane reading is pretty awesome). Stay tuned for a review!

References

Coelho, P. The Alchemist. (1993) New York, NY: HarperCollins.

Fashion: All the Universe

So, I’ve done a bad thing: I’ve mixed brown and black. BUT, here’s the thing, I love it. I don’t know who thought of the rule that brown and black shouldn’t be worn together, but I’m guessing he’s the cousin of the person who abhors white after Labor Day. I’m a rebel, what can I say.

Once again, this dress is borrowed/stolen from my sister’s closet! This necklace is quickly becoming one of my favorite pieces of jewelry. It’s a compass pendant my best friend bought for me as a Christmas gift. The Cambridge Satchel Company bag I have was a present from my cousin as well, so I’m wondering if there is a single item in this outfit I actually bought myself. Probably not 🙂123456dress from my sister, necklace from Etsy, boots from DSW, bag from Cambridge Satchel Company

“To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation. And when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.” —Paulo Coelho

Book Lust: Lisa's Must Reads

I have been reading like a fiend so far this year but I still feel like I’m slacking, and also that there are too many books I want to read and only so many eyes I have in my face (only two). I’ve been dying to read these books. If you’ve read them and can offer insight, critical or otherwise, or if you have a fifty dollar bill you’d like to donate so I can buy these, let me know in the comments (I really should renew my library membership).

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1. Ender’s Game: my sister is teaching this book to her eighth graders and raving about it nonstop, and I’ll admit I’m curious about all the hype and controversy surrounding the film version. I’m never one to not read a novel/see a movie because of the personal beliefs of the artist. I believe art exists separate from its creator. Also, Ender’s Game is an undisputed classic and I’d like to experience it for myself.

2. His Dark Materials: this novel(s) is another example of being able to separate the artist’s own beliefs from the narrative and story. This trilogy is a classic fantasy piece of literature, and also happens to be a popular film. I’m noticing a pattern in my literary choices.

3. PAULO COELHO: i.e., everything he’s written. I’ve previously read By The River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept and I loved it. I’m a third of the way through The Alchemist right now and highlighting every other line. Coelho has the ability to infuse a sense of magic into an otherwise mundane story. Santiago the shepherd and his journey to achieve his life’s purpose have me bewitched. I’m planning to read The Valkyries next.

4. 1Q84: I feel like I’ll need at least three weeks to read this tome, and I’d like to spend the necessary time with it. Hopefully I don’t put it off for too long. Maybe it’s a good plane read for my trip to and from Alaska next week. Being stuck on a plane is a great way to get some books read.

5. American Gods: I’m slowly moving my way through Gaiman’s oeuvre and loving every minute of it. Read what I thought of Stardust and Neverwhere while you’re here!

6. A Winter’s Tale: those sappy, beautifully-shot commercials for the film have made me want to read the novel. This desire may also be a symptom of the lovey-dovey Valentine’s Day feeling in the air, but I’ll take it nonetheless! I’ve heard great things about the novel, so hopefully I get my hands on a copy of this soon. (Also a movie!)

7. The Lowland: I love to read immigrant literature, especially if it’s by one of my favorite authors, Jhumpa Lahiri. I received the hardcover for Christmas and can’t wait to sink my teeth into it!

There’s nothing I love to do more during the winter season than bury myself in blankets and read, most often with some sort of spiked hot beverage 😉

2013 Book Round-Up

Many, many books were read this year. Here’s the list–the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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  1. AbaratI thought this light-hearted, richly illustrated YA fantasy book would be an interesting diversion from more serious fiction, but I hated the first one and didn’t read the sequels, then quickly sold my copy. Oh, well!
  2. Norwegian Wood: Another slight disappointment, you can read my full review here. I think I chose the wrong Murakami to start with, but I shall keep on keeping on.
  3. The Iliad: Who doesn’t love The Iliad? Had to re-read it for class, and thoroughly enjoyed new interpretations.
  4. Inkheart: This was one of my favorite books was I was a young teen, and I re-read the series this year for the sake of nostalgia, and it was wonderful.
  5. Inkspell: the sequel to Inkheart
  6. Inkdeath: the sequel to Inkspell
  7. The Hobbit: I read The Hobbit for the first time this year and found it delightful, although I did like Lord of the Rings better.
  8. The Lord of the Rings: This was actually my first time reading it, and I can see why Tolkien influenced nearly a hundred years of fantasy writers, and basically invented an entire genre. Still, in the past century, no one has surpassed Tolkien, or even come close. One of my absolute favorites.
  9. Paradise Lost: I cannot extol my love for this epic poem enough. It’s absurdly beautiful, and somewhat proto-feminist. And, in the words of my John Milton professor of senior year, “Adam is a total wank.” Read more…
  10. Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist: I read this when I was quite young, and re-read it this year. It’s fun and very teen-angsty, but in a good way.
  11. The Great Gatsby: re-read it in preparation for the movie, which I loved.
  12. Muse: Out of This World: The official “biography” of my favorite band; such an amazing read.
  13. This Side of Paradise: Fitzgerald’s first novel, heavily autobiographical and somewhat piecemeal, but it was a treat.
  14. 1984: The scariest book I have ever read, and the standard by which I now judge every single dystopian novel or film. No one does it better than Orwell.
  15. Cloud Atlas: Amazing! Full review here.
  16. The Cuckoo’s Calling: When the world found out JK Rowling had written a secret book, I was among the millions to immediately buy the book, and it kept me guessing throughout. I can’t wait for the next installment.
  17. Green Darkness: A sophisticated historical fiction novel from another era, before historical fiction turned into bodice-rippers (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with bodice-rippers!).
  18. Water for Elephants: This one tested my patience, and severely disappointed me, what with my love for circuses and psychosis.
  19. Middlesex: One of the best books I’ve read in a long time.
  20. The Marriage Plot: Though my least favorite Eugenides, this novel is still worth a read. A slim book, it shouldn’t take too much of your precious book-reading time.
  21. Conversations with EVE: I reviewed this new feminist theory book for Gender Focus. See it here.
  22. My Mistress’s Sparrow Is Dead: a collection of love stories written by Jeffrey Eugenides; not as good as I was hoping, though.
  23. The Fire Gospel: Michel Faber’s novella satirizing The Da Vinci Code, an interesting read.
  24. The Courage Consort: a collection of three novellas by Michel Faber. I enjoyed “The Fahrenheit Twins” the best.
  25. Some Rain Must Fall: my favorite work by Faber so far, apart from The Crimson Petal and the White. This collection of short stories is wonderful.
  26. By The River Piedra, I Sat Down and Wept: FIVE STARS WAY UP or something like that. This book blew me away.
  27. Madame Bovary: “Emma Bovary, c’est moi.” In the words of the immortal Summer Roberts from The OC: “It was kind of a bummer. I mean, I know Emma got her heart, like, totally broken, but why did she have to go and eat arsenic?”
  28. A Christmas Carol: my Christmas tradition, and always wonderful to read! This year I fell asleep in front of my tree while reading it and eating milk and cookies…it was ridiculous.

Only 28 books this year: such a disappointment. In my defense, I did begin a blog this year, a huge goal for me. Thanks all for visiting, commenting, and following. I promise more books and clothes in the near future. Happy New Year!

My Christmas Lit & Fashion Haul

As you can probably expect, I got plenty of clothes, shoes, jewelry, and books for Christmas. Not too shabby:

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I love the print on this skater skirt, and the slight steampunk vibe of the statement necklace.

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Gilmore Girls on DVD, and some great books I’ve been salivating for: The Lowland, The Valkyries, The Alchemist, Neverwhere, Bellman & Black, and The Moonstone. January will be a month filled with great reads, so stay tuned!

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shoes from ModCloth and Jeffrey Campbell! Evangelina mesh booties, Flair-y Tale Boots, and Haute on Your Heels Booties

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And the coat from Modcloth I was waxing poetic about just a few short weeks ago…

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Haul ^ I’m ready for a long, cold winter filled with reading by the fire, plenty of scarves and boots, and some great hot chocolate!

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

Paulo Coelho’s heart wrenching little book is one of the best books I’ve read this year, or maybe ever. I’m on the verge of gushing here. After I read this book I went on a Goodreads adding spree and discovered I want to read every single thing Coelho ever wrote. I’d dig through his house for his credit card slips, if need be. New favorite author. Poetic, spiritual, this book hugs your heart and soul. There is so much love in a deceivingly skinny package. It’s not just an immense and powerful love story, but an immense and powerful life story. It’s breathtaking in scope and spirit. It’s also highly quotable, almost to the point where I wanted to copy and paste every [other] page.

But ultimately there is no good reason for our suffering, for in every love lies the seed of our growth. The more we love, the closer we come to a spiritual experience. Those who are truly enlightened, those whose souls are illuminated by love, have been able to overcome all the inhibitions and preconceptions of their era. They have been joyful — because those who love conquer the world and have no fear of loss. True love is an act of total surrender.

By The River Piedra ReviewAnd that’s just in the introduction. Read More »

Internships & Indie Books

Yesterday I began a new internship writing for Vibe Vixen, and it’s great to have a reason to put on real clothes in the morning: you know, like pants without dancing toasters on them. Actual clothes. Like these:

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Wait, something is missing.

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^^^That’s better. My train book: By The River Piedra I Sat Down And Wept. I’m thoroughly entranced by it so far.

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Sorry I look like such a goober: posing for pictures makes me awkward and I’m smiling so cheesy because my father (who took the picture) had no idea how to use my camera and it made me laugh.

What I love most about fashion/style is picking together really old pieces from your wardrobe and finding new combinations. Everything about this outfit is old, old, old but I have never worn them like this. Those burgundy tights from American Apparel have become so worn out but I still wear them basically every other week, and the taupe boots from Forever 21 need some love from a cobbler (I also have them in black). But being broke and interning means I have to recycle my old clothes and my staples and find new ways to wear them. I’m up to the challenge 🙂

And since it was my first day and therefore short, I thought I’d take some time to visit a new indie bookstore. I love finding new places and after a little searching, I found one centrally located on 47th Street between 5th and Madison: The Center for Fiction.

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It’s an indie and a non-profit, and they have a modest collection of Rare Books, a whole back storeroom of Used Books, new titles at 50% off, and a few self-published zines, as well as the now-common collection of printed tees and totes.

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What I found lovely about this place was the architecture of the building itself. It’s attached to a little office building so you can see the old elevators from the inside, nothing about the decor is overwrought, and it feels more like an eccentric collector’s home than a bookstore, which I’m sure is constructed but it’s charming anyway!

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I loved the Rare Books shelves. I found a book I wanted but it was $75. I think I’ll stick to used, thanks. The Used Books section was my favorite, which was definitely a storeroom they didn’t bother decorating, which is awesome. Bonus: no music playing so you get that creepy-quiet atmosphere conducive to book-shopping (I think!)

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All in all, I had a pretty good Monday.