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I didn't have any posters in my bedroom when I was a teenager.

That's right.  I didn't have a single poster of a popular rock star, teenage actor, astrological sign, or inspirational quote on the blue-painted walls of my bedroom.  Nor did a fuzzy, hand colored blacklight poster glow moodily on my wall (not that I had blacklight bulb, but never mind).  I didn't even have a subscription to Tiger Beat, Seventeen, Creem, or any other fine, wholesome publications designed to entertain and shape the minds of American youth with articles about makeup tips, boys, dating dos and don'ts, fashion, boys, physical development, boys, and cooking, plus of course the traditional advertisements for Mark Eden Bust Developing Cream.  Teen heart throbs did nothing for me, especially after I started watching Star Trek and developed a massive crush on Mr. Spock.

Yes, I know.  I know this marks me as a dangerous, possibly un-American subversive, but what are you going to do?  I was a geek before such creatures had a name, and that meant my type was a brainy, theoretically emotionless alien rather than a dreamy, theoretically pubescent "singer."  I was much happier reading a book anyway.

I did have one piece of wall art for my room, however.  It was a silk screened fabric print of a lone seagull, sailing in silhouette across a blue background and a few fluffy white clouds.  I wasn't a huge fan of shorebirds, but I liked the color and the design, and it stayed up on my wall for the rest of my adolescence and college years.

In this I was far from alone.  Seagulls became one of the most popular decorating motifs during the Me Decade, soaring their way onto jewelry, book covers, flocked blacklight posters, normal posters, dress and decorating fabrics, and the finer sort of collectible ceramic statues across this great land.  They even turned up in romantic movies, often during a scene where a lonely person walks along a beach at sunset and thinks about lost loves and lost dreams.  

High flying, white, and seemingly above it all, seagulls came to stand for aspiration, hope, and transcendence.  This was despite the actual birds being less than attractive in their habits, diet, and interaction with humans; anyone who's ever lived near the ocean knows that gulls are actually rather stupid, aggressive about food, and make everyone's lives miserable as they divebomb hapless tourists who are foolish enough to eat their lobster rolls outside the fish shack.  Add in that they decorate the docks (and the cars, and the fishermen, and the New Yorkers taking pictures of the fishermen, and the New Yorkers' rental cars) with copious amounts of effluvia, screech like a cat that's caught its tail in the door, and think garbage scows are gourmet restaurants, and the overall impression is less than favorable.

Why then did seagulls suddenly become respectable?  It wasn't because of their personal habits, which didn't change a whit.  A few ended up on the network news as heartbreaking evidence of environmental degradation after crude oil spills, but surely that wasn't enough by itself to elevate the seagull above the noble albatross as the preeminent aquatic bird.

No, something else happened.  It had nothing to do with oil slicks, fish shacks, or actual seagulls, but it was powerful enough that suddenly seagulls, along with long stemmed red roses, rainbows, hot tubs, and unicorns came to symbolize an entire decade:  

Jonathan Livingston Seagull.

I have Ahianne to thank for the subject of tonight's diary, but I probably would have gotten around to featuring Richard Bach, his spiritual classic about French fry loving shorebirds, and the rest of his oeuvre eventually.  It's hard to ignore a book that all but defined its era (and not in a good way), its author, and its author's surprising life both before and after the success of the Book That Made Seagulls Respectable.

The plot of JLS is deceptively simple:  Jonathan Livington Seagull is not like the other gulls.  Instead of joining the Breakfast Flock for a hearty meal of fish guts, rotting food, and other delectable treats from the local garbage scows, he spends his days practicing fancy flying tricks, smoother landings, and various ways of gliding and swooping that are lots of fun but have no practical value when it comes to feeding himself.  Not only that, he starts to tell all of his flockmates about how much fun it is to do something other than eat trash, and quickly is seen as a Bad Influence because he refuses to do what the other seagulls have done for time out of mind (or at least since the invention of the garbage scow):  rely on human scraps for survival.

Eventually the rest of the Breakfast Flock gets sick of this dangerous and subversive message that is coincidentally so close to the counterculture belief about doing one's own thing.  Jonathan is cast out by the Elders of his flock, exiled from seagull society and all that is known and familiar.  

The average person seagull would logically be a bit upset by this, but not Jonathan.  He devotes his time to learning about flying, practices even more, and soars higher and higher.  Eventually he meets two radiant gulls who are clearly metaphors for angels since he's gone as high as he can go, and boy oh boy if that isn't a metaphor for death/transcendence I don't know what is.  The radiant gulls tell him that he's learned a lot but that they'll teach him more, and off he goes.

The radiant gulls introduce him to a society where all the gulls love to fly, there's plenty of mutual respect, and everything is just fabulous.  Jonathan thrives, and picks up spiritual wisdom from his gurus along the lines of "You've got to understand that a seagull is an unlimited idea of freedom, an image of the Great Gull," "You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way," "If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we've destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don't you think that we might see each other once or twice?" and "Keep working on love."  

Eventually he decides to return to the Breakfast Flock to share his new wisdom with others.  He acquires disciples (notably Fletcher Lynd Seagull, and why Bach thought that seagulls either had or needed two first names is beyond me), resurrects a seemingly dead seagull after a crash (Fletcher again, poor woobie), and is hailed as the Son of the Great Gull.  Completing the Obligatory Christ Metaphor, Jonathan then flies off in search of new adventures, leaving Fletcher to impart love, wisdom, and fabulous flying tricks to the Breakfast Flock.

This thinly disguised New Age mash-up of Buddhism and the Gospels was not Richard Bach's first book.  Bach, born in the Midwest and educated in California, had been a fighter pilot in the Naval Reserves, a technical writer for Douglas Aircraft, and a barnstorming pilot.  He'd eventually become a contributing editor to Flying magazine and wrote three books about (what else?) flying, with the occasional gig as a stunt flyer for movies set during World War I.  Nothing in this resume would have suggested that his greatest contribution to literature would be a 10,000 word allegory about seagulls, and it's little surprise that several publishers turned down JLS before Macmillan decided to take a chance.

Of course we all know what happened next.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull was initially ignored by critics (one trade journal classified it under "Nature Books"), then lauded as a "strange little allegory" by no less than Publishers Weekly.  Christians were particularly annoyed by the book, which one, John Carey, excoriated for being "soggy" for deliberately omitting the Crucifixion from Jonathan's Christ-lite life.  "Mr. Bach’ is for those who think the world would be a lovely place if it were full of chummy people and tame animals" and went on to say that "It’s of interest that Jonathan’s spiritual aviation should prove so endearing to a nation currently using its own air power to crush North Vietnam.”  Even Roger Ebert got into the act, saying that he found The Little Engine That Could deeper and more ambitious than the tale of Jonathan's little quest for citius, altius, fortius instead of stale grinder rolls.

None of this ultimately mattered.  Jonathan Livingston Seagull became a smash bestseller and 1970s staple, the successor to such optimistic American self-help and spirituality books as How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Power of Positive Thinking, and the writings of Ella Wheeler Wilcox and other New Thought devotees.  Seagulls became wildly popular, gift copies of JLS appeared under thousands of Christmas trees, and posterized quotations from the book appeared on uncounted dorm room walls.  It sold millions of copies and is still in print today, still read, still loved, and now deemed a minor spiritual classic.

There was even a live action movie that used live seagulls (and motorized seagull-shaped gliders because real seagulls are too stupid to perform most of the necessary stunts) and wasted the vocal talents of James Franciscus, Juliet Mills, and Dorothy McGuire in one of the big cinematic bombs of 1973.

As for Richard Bach, the success of JLS lead directly to a collection of 48 of his magazine articles being published in the mid-1970s as A Gift of Wings.  Although somewhat repetitious, and marred by some very, very typically 1970s penciled illustrations, the book is much better and more interesting than JLS, especially for anyone who wants to know more about flying and aviation.  Bach then wrote a children's book (There's No Such Place As Far Away), which may or may not be autobiographical, about a little girl who wants the unnamed narrator to appear at her birthday party.  

Both these books sold decently and are still in print.  But the first inkling that Richard Bach's literary journey was taking him in some very strange directions was his next major work, Illusions:  The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah.

This book, which is almost certainly autobiographical, concerns a couple of barnstorming pilots, one of whom is a former Messiah/guru who decided that he was sick of people who preferred miracles and tricks to actual enlightenment.  This this enlightenment consists mainly of koans like "What the caterpillar calls the end of the world, the Master calls a butterfly," doesn't prevent the main character from imparting his spiritual wisdom to his friend and fellow pilot, Richard (yes, really, he named the sidekick after himself, and no, I can't believe his publishers let him get away with this) as they hang out, fly, and appear on talk shows.  

If that weren't enough, Illusions has no page numbers (so readers could simply jump in wherever they liked and ignore earlier sections).   Even better, the text is interlarded with quotations from the main character's Messiah Handbook, which became so popular that it was eventually published on its own.  It was most recently issued in 2012, so that everyone can benefit from advice like:

"Life tells you nothing, it shows you everything."

Debatable, but not bad.

"There's a reason you chose what's happening around you. Hang on, live your way through the best you know, and in a bit you'll find out why."

Um...does this mean that my father chose to drop dead at the age of 51?

"If it's never your fault, you can't take responsibility for it. If you can't take responsibility for it, you'll always be its victim."

I prefer the SCA version:  "Take your shots."  Shorter, pithier, and less victim-blaming.

"Having climbed certain peaks you'll descend no more, but spread your wings and fly beyond."

Not necessarily true, as 90% of the people on this overcrowded little planet could tell you.

"You do not exist to impress the world. You exist to live your life in a way that will make you happy."

Ah, the banality of the successful....

"You're master of what you've lived,

artisan at what you're living,

amateur at what's next to live."


"You are never given a wish without also being given the power to make it true.

You may have to work for it, however."


I always wished to be tall, athletic, and red-haired.  Anyone who thinks that I got my wish is invited to look at my profile picture.

None of the above prevented Illusions from selling very well indeed, and remaining in print to this day; it appeared just as 1970s mushy spirituality was giving way to the New Age in popular culture, and since it had many of the requisite New Age trappings about self-determination, enlightenment, and vaguely Buddhist ideals, it's stayed popular in certain circles.  

Based on JLS and Illusions, Richard Bach seemed to have carved out a niche for himself, and a profitable and long-lived one it was, too.  And for all the carping about JLS being banal, or the questionably too-optimistic theology, Bach's books and ideas were no worse than those of many New Age/spiritual writers, and considerably better than many.

Then he wrote The Bridge Across Forever, and suddenly it became apparent that the man who had written "Keep working on Love" had some very peculiar ideas about just what that meant.

Bach had been married during his flying days, back before JLS hit big.  His wife, Bette, was also a pilot, and during their marriage she'd borne six children, worked, and even typed and edited her husband's manuscripts.  None of this prevented Richard from deciding that he really didn't believe in marriage, and quietly divorcing her around the time that JLS was published.  He saw his children rarely, if at all, and had numerous relationships with women in the best Me Decade style.  

This casual lifestyle ended when Bach met actress Leslie Parrish, a gorgeous, intelligent blonde who'd appeared in Lil' Abner and The Manchurian Candidate and later become famous in fannish circles for portraying Lt. Carolyn Palamas in an episode of Star Trek.  Bach was convinced that he had, at long last, found his soulmate:

A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be. Each unveils the best part of the other. No matter what else goes wrong around us, with that one person we’re safe in our own paradise. Our soulmate is someone who shares our deepest longings, our sense of direction. When we’re two balloons, and together our direction is up, chances are we’ve found the right person. Our soulmate is the one who makes life come to life.
Bach and Parrish married in 1977, and if his books are to be believed, for twenty-one years, Leslie Parrish was Richard Bach's key, his lock his Gatekeeper, his Keymaster, his everything, and he was hers.  Bach was so thrilled with their relationship that he wrote The Bridge Across Forever and its follow up, One, to explore their unique bond, which included New Age standbys like astral travel and extraterrestrial guides.  Oddly enough he almost never mentioned his six children from his first wife, and he and Leslie had no kids of their own (possibly due to her age when they married).  And there was a passage in The Bridge Across Forever quoting a devastating, and devastatingly perceptive, letter by Leslie attempting to break with him when he started to hook up with other women despite his Epic Love for her.  Worst of all, he seemed genuinely shocked when Leslie did anything unexpected, like swear, since his true soulmate surely wouldn't have done anything so vulgar and unladylike.

Is anyone really surprised to learn that Bach and Parrish divorced in 1997?  Or that shortly thereafter he married Sabryna Nelson-Alexopoulos?  No?  

What about Bach saying in public that despite divorce and remarriage, Leslie Parrish is still his soulmate?

That's right.  It doesn't matter that they aren't together anymore, and haven't been for fifteen years.  It doesn't matter that they divorced because Leslie wanted to settle down and live a quieter lifestyle while Richard wanted to fly and have adventures.  It doesn't matter that their Epic Love proved, like so many loves that are played out in public,unequal to the burden of being not only Epic but a role model for millions of idealistic readers who were convinced that they, too, would someday find their soulmates.  It doesn't matter that many, many of those readers were furious when they heard of the divorce, perhaps because they'd believed in his words, perhaps because if it could happen to such a perfect couple, why, it could happen to them.

None of that mattered because Richard and Leslie are still soulmates even though they divorced and he remarried.  As Richard put it:

I believe that Leslie and I were led to find each other, led through the years we lived together, and led to part. There’s so much to learn! When a marriage comes to an end, we’re free to call it a failure. We’re also free to call it a graduation. We didn’t say, ‘I guess we weren’t led to each other, I guess we’re not soul mates after all.’ Our graduation was part of the experience we chose before we were born, to learn how to let each other go. (emphasis mine)
I have been unable to discover any response from Leslie Parrish, but somehow I think she wouldn't have been nearly that sanguine about the breakup or the divorce.

As for Richard Bach, he's still writing, still flying, and still having adventures.  Recent books include a series of children's books called The Ferret Chronicles, about the utopian world of our mustelid friends, the forthcoming Thank Your Wicked Parents, and the almost completed Travels with Puff:  A Gentle Game of Life and Death, about his journeys in the eponymous seaplane.

Whether he ever plans a sequel to Jonathan Livingston Seagull is unknown.


So, my friends...did you read Jonathan Livingston Seagull?  The Bridge Across Forever?  Did you see the movie?  Have a Mobius strip wedding ring?  Or maybe an inspirational poster of a seagull soaring high into the sunset?  It's a rainy night here in the thriving metropolis of Easthampton, Massachusetts, and we could all use a little uplift, so don't be shy....


Readers & Book Lovers Series Schedule

DAY TIME (EST/EDT) Series Name Editor(s)
SUN 6:00 PM Young Reader's Pavilion The Book Bear
Sun (hiatus) 9:30 PM SciFi/Fantasy Book Club quarkstomper
Bi-Monthly Sun Midnight Reading Ramblings don mikulecky
MON 8:00 PM Monday Murder Mystery Susan from 29
Mon 11:00 PM My Favorite Books/Authors edrie, MichiganChet
alternate Tuesdays 8:00AM LGBT Literature Texdude50, Dave in Northridge
Tue 10:00 PM Contemporary Fiction Views bookgirl
WED 7:30 AM WAYR? plf515
Wed 8:00 PM Bookflurries Bookchat cfk
THU 8:00 PM Write On! SensibleShoes
alternate Thu 11:00 PM Audiobooks Club SoCaliana
FRI 8:00 AM Books That Changed My Life Diana in NoVa
SAT (fourth each month) 11:00 AM Windy City Bookworm Chitown Kev
Sat 9:00 PM Books So Bad They're Good Ellid

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by DKOMA and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  JLS (9+ / 0-)

    I remember reading it. It was interesting, but not life-changing. (I was under the impression that JLS was paying more attention to his flying than his surroundings, and ran into a cliff, with the usual-for-birds result of flying head-on into a Large Solid Object.)

    (Is it time for the pitchforks and torches yet?)

    by PJEvans on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:13:52 PM PDT

  •  I read it. And that's all I remember. (15+ / 0-)

    This is, of course, the difference between republicans and human beings. - Captain Frogbert

    by glorificus on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:22:33 PM PDT

  •  I do not think it is possible (14+ / 0-)

    for anyone to understand his later books unless they read the first three--chronologically, in the order in which they were written.  

    Stranger to the Ground, Biplane, and Nothing By Chance.

    I cannot say for sure, but I'm not sure it is even possible for a non-pilot to understand him.  But even then, it helps if the pilot who reads him is at least part poet.

    His first three books are autobiographical, the later books are allegorical.

    I first stumbled onto his first book, Stranger to the Ground, my first year in graduate school and checked it out from the University library.  It has been almost fifty years, and I still remember passages from it.  The image of flying in close formation at night and moving up closer to watch the flames inside the jet engine of the fighter plane just above and ahead of him is still vivid.  

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:30:09 PM PDT

    •  He writes beautifully about flying (5+ / 0-)

      The best parts of JLS are about being in the air.  

    •  His books on flying (9+ / 0-)

      along with A Gift of Wings, helped me understand my first love, who was an amateur pilot locked to the ground due to lack of funds. (He purchased a mobile home and rented a space that had a view of the control tower of Reid-Hillview Airport -- gives you an idea of the type of person he was.)

      Never saw the movie, but I found JLS fascinating...and I love the Neil Diamond soundtrack.

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 10:37:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Iff (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ThatBritGuy, llywrch

      If what you say is true, and the man has gone to write four or five or more books that are simply incomprehensible without the first three, in sequence, then he's writing for a cult, not an audience. One part of the 1970's that hasn't been addressed here was the move toward the personal in writing.

      In poetry, we had the confessionals. In novels, we had Updike doing a great job of working from flat autobiography, Tom Wolfe doing a good job of working from real history, and then wagon loads of novelists and "new journalists" doing hamfisted jobs of just plain writing about themselves. It was the decade that institutionalized the worst advice ever for writers, "Write about what you know. Write about yourself."

      It's the decade that resulted in late 80's adults who made movies about movie makers who had interesting lives, novel about novelists who were writing novels and having a divorce, etc.

      Before I go read a bunch to get the "key" for someone, that someone has to demonstrate a really good pay out.

      Everyone is innocent of something.

      by The Geogre on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:06:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The first three books are autobiographical (0+ / 0-)

        about flying, his adventures in recreating the early days of barnstorming in an antique biplane, and his deep feelings about flying.  The title, Stranger to the Ground gives away his feelings, but I can tell you right now that if you are not a pilot, you will not understand it.  Or a better way of putting it is to explain that without the experience, reading the book is simply reading a book.  Imagine reading about the sexual experience without ever having had sex, or swimming without ever having gone into the water.  

        Thing is, he gets much of his inspiration for the later books from things he talks about in the first book.  It is then the story flows.  It is not a cult, it is a progression, and one can see Bach's development as a person and a pilot as one reads each book.  He is a former fighter pilot.  How would you really and truly understand what is going on in the cockpit of an airplane without experiencing it?  

        The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

        by Otteray Scribe on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 10:44:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Nah. (0+ / 0-)

      That's like saying you have to view early Picasso to understand his later works. Perhaps what you meant was: to understand the author, or maybe even: to understand what the authors understanding of their work is/was.
      But I surely can have my own understanding of any work of art, all by itself, for myself.

      "I'm grateful for my job - truly, but still...ugh." CityLightsLover

      by Audri on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:22:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  HAha! i never read it muwahahaaaaa (12+ / 0-)

    so i never until today knew what it was about--beyond the christian/buddhist mashup.
    but i do remember - working in a famous san francisco bookstore - that i refused to sell it to anyone under the age of 21, claiming it was porn.
    we finally stopped ordering it.

    gawd i'm a literature snob... give me great trashy genre stories.

    thank you once again, ellid.

  •  Ran across Bach from FLYING magazine (17+ / 0-)

    JLS was originally aimed at pilots, IIRC, hence so much emphasis on flying. I've read that and Illusions, and Stranger to the Ground. While he served in the Navy Reserve, he also flew for the Air Force. (Stranger to the Ground details a night flight across Europe in a fighter during the Cold War. It's a great book about being a pilot and flying, as well as a bit of biography.)

    I enjoyed Jonathan Livingston Seagull, but didn't get too swept away by the philosophy. My own approach to the bits of wisdom imparted therein is that it makes a good starting point for thinking - which is more important than memorizing them and trying to adhere to them without thinking at all.

    Bach's writing always left me with suspicion he never took anything too seriously, including his own wisdom, at least not to the point of holding him back from whatever he wanted to do. In a way, Bach is actually useful - how many books and novels incorporate 'artistic' types who live by their own rules while defying convention (and/or sense?) There has to be a prototype for them somewhere!

    Thinking about the way you've described Bach here, I can't help but compare and contrast with another book involving philosophy, messiah figures, sex and defying of convention: Stranger in a Strange Land. Oddly enough, it features another 3-name character - Valentine Michael Smith. If Heinlein's later conceit about multiple universes is true, somewhere Richard Bach is a fictional character in a novel...

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:47:19 PM PDT

  •  Jonathan Livingston Ferret (10+ / 0-)

    I wasn't interested in JLS when it was popular.  I saw bits of Illusions adapted as a newspaper comic strip, believe it or not; (A syndicated strip which adapted bestselling novels; it also did a decent version of Raise the Titanic); but I was not terribly impressed.  Being a serious adolescent with a strong grounding in Lutheran dogma, New Age platitudes did little for me.

    But I did read and enjoy The Ferret Chronicles.  They didn't pretend to be philosophical or deep; they were just fun stories about ferrets with (mostly) adventurous occupations.  (We currently own seven ferrets by the way).

    One of the books is about ferrets who fly planes, (this was written by Richard Bach, after all); another is about ferrets who serve in the Coast Guard and rescue people.  But one of them was titled (if I remember correctly) Writer Ferrets Chasing the Muse and was about ferrets who write novels.  

    The hero was a struggling author ferret who publishes his first novel and is a success.  He buys a house with his advance and throws himself into writing the Great American Ferret Novel.  But he has trouble finishing it; he wants to write A Serious Novel, but nothing he writes seems to match his aspirations.  Frustrating him further, his wife decides to try writing herself, and dashes off a potboiler which also gets published and becomes more successful than his own.

    Ultimately, he is able to re-connect with what he enjoys most about writing and gets over his writer's block and his jealosy issues.

    I suspect that there is a bit of autobiographical material in this book.  There are also a few bits of decent writing advice scattered here and there, which struck me as good advice rather than Words of Wisdom From A Spiritual Guy.  The ferret books are illustrated with pencil sketches by the author which are amateurish, but they add a personal aspect to the books so I can forgive that.

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:51:23 PM PDT

  •  I read a lot of fiction during the 1970s (7+ / 0-)

    Somehow, I managed to miss JLS, and now I'm really happy I did. The only VAGUELY new-agey thing I read during the 70s was Adam Smith (George Goodman, who wrote serious popular books about economics), Powers of Mind, in which he talked about his encounters with Arica and est and the I Ching with a VERY light touch. THAT'S eminently worth reading if you want to know about the 70s.

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:52:21 PM PDT

  •  yep... read it in the seventies. (12+ / 0-)

    That's all I have to say about that.

    One thing rang true.  Seagulls are not smart birds.  I've caught 2 of them while fishing for rainbow trout in the Great lakes.  They hit lures that run 1-2 foot below the surface in relatively shallow water.  Both times they did it when the trout were too smart to hit the same lure, once in a channel going out into the big lake.   I wasn't overly impressed with their smarts, although they're feisty little birdies.

    Nice diary though!  Thanks!

    A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

    by dougymi on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 06:53:23 PM PDT

  •  I never read Bach's later stuff, (6+ / 0-)

    but I still own a copy of "Stranger to the Ground". His earlier books, which are about his love of flying, aren't bad, but JLS clearly took it into the 'Twilight Zone'.

    May you live in interesting times--Chinese curse

    by oldcrow on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 07:01:52 PM PDT

  •  I don't know, I sort of liked the movie. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mama jo, Black Max

    Really hokey acting, I'll admit, but gorgeous cinematography.  

    Don't crash the gate--take back the keys.

    by lungfish on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 07:27:33 PM PDT

  •  I will 'fess up-- (3+ / 0-)

    as a youngster, I thought JLS was pretty cool.

    In retrospect, I have this question:

    Neil Diamond!  What were you Thinking?!

  •  I bought it for a friend's 16th b-day (7+ / 0-)

    in 1972.  Hopefully, Elizabeth isn't reading this because I read the whole thing (while opened only an inch) before wrapping it for her.  I was 15 and was not impressed.

    More importantly, E. said she loved it, probably because we were the best of friends.

    I will, however, confess to loving Rod McKuen poetry during that time.

    The truth always matters.

    by texasmom on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 07:40:16 PM PDT

  •  I bought JLS in college, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    old wobbly, LSophia

    but my girlfriend laughed at me so mercilessly I never read it.  Har!

  •  Dear God I loved this book (5+ / 0-)

    ...when I was 12.  Hey, my family was secular.  Anything remotely spiritual was like forbidden fruit.

    When I returned from college at 22, I found it on a shelf and couldn't believe how bad it had become.

    Early to rise and early to bed Makes a man healthy, wealthy, and dead. --Not Benjamin Franklin

    by Boundegar on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 07:50:34 PM PDT

    •  That was basically my thought (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      It seemed profound when I was a kid, but as an adult?  not so much.

    •  "Anything remotely spiritual was like forbidden (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ellid, Debby, llywrch, Panurge

          Yeah, you shoulda been there the afternoon I found all the old discarded catechism stuff in the attic and brought it downstairs. I plopped it on the kitchen table and said innocently, "What's this?" and you'da thought I brought out Penthouse or something the way the conversation stopped.

      So yes, I was thirsty and this JLS filled a big spot for a young teenager. Now I am collecting copies for when my grandchildren get bigger. I was an outsider, a seeker, etc. and totally identified with Jonathan. Maybe the new generations won't care, but this book always made me feel better.

    •  I have to confess I like JLS in the day (0+ / 0-)

      My defense is that I was an uninformed teenager at the time. I've since moved on to more substantial works on mysticism than Bach's book: every so often I pull out one of my books of Meister Eckhardt's collected writings & try to read it again. (So far I've made it a total of two dozen pages into the thinking of the man who coined concepts such as "the Godhead" & infused mystical meanings into such words as "Emptiness" & "Silence".)

      Thinking about it, JLS is to such serious works such as the Tao Te Ching & the Meister as those children's retellings of important works of literature (e.g. The Iliad or the Greek Myths) are to the originals: all of the difficulties & complexities have been cleaned up to "help" the reader. (No, I didn't like those versions much as a kid; I probably disliked them more than they deserved.)

  •  Okay, even I can't find something good about JLS (5+ / 0-)

    So I'm just going to quietly re-read 'The Silver Chalice'.

    And yes I do have a copy of JLS I got as a gift in 1972. I still have it, and it's sitting on a bookshelf right now between 2 other gift books; 'The Garden of The Prophet', and 'Howard Stern's Private Parts'.

    Make of that what you will.

    Nothing so cold, as closing your heart when all we need is to free the soul - but we wouldn't be that brave, I know.

    by Fordmandalay on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 08:30:34 PM PDT

  •  Yes, hell, I read the seagull book. (5+ / 0-)

    I enjoyed it in the same way you'd enjoy a Slurpee -- a few minutes of berry-flavored fizzy sugar and then it's gone, the cup is in the trash, and life moves on. The bit about the gull learning to fly as slowly as possible and still remain airborne was pretty cool, though.

    I think Robert Pirsig had a copy of the seagull book next to his typewriter when he coughed up Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.

    •  I never read that one... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Black Max, Monsieur Georges

      Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, I mean.

      I did read the seagull book back in the day.  Don't remember much about it except it was sort of a cliche even when new.

      Of course, it was a time when bad poetry was very popular and everyone was devouring Carlos Castenada's fiction, and The Secret Life of Plants, and the one about beings from outer space building the pyramids, and all that nonsense.

      I blame LSD.

      To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

      by Youffraita on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 10:13:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I loved Illusions (7+ / 0-)

    And I still do. I don't care if you don't think Richard Bach doesn't live up to the ideals he discusses in his books, I still think they are great ideas. They had a profound influence on me, I think all for the better. Like someone else suggested, his books aren't the be-all and end-all of philosophical thought, but they do serve their purpose as a good gateway to different kinds of thinking.

    I just get so tired of empty cynicism, and effete hipsterish self-congratulatory aloofness for its own sake. Not every book as to answer every single question in the best way possible to be at least a decent book.

  •  I read both JLS (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Black Max, Ahianne, Debby

    and Illusions as a little girl.  I liked JLS.  Illusions was okay.

    A few years later, I read the romantic stuff and I could not BELIEVE how TERRIBLE it was.  That "wookie" business just about made my head explode.

    On par with Dan Millman's "Way of the Peaceful Warrior," which was acutely terrible.

  •  Americans aren't alone in liking flying gulls (8+ / 0-)

    Check out the opening of this video, which claims to show the visual tropes in Every Anime Opening Ever Made.

    "The party of ideas has become the party of Beavis and Butthead." ~ Paul Krugman.

    by Neon Vincent on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 09:43:13 PM PDT

    •  I watch too much anime'... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Neon Vincent

      I recognized about 2/3 of the shows!

      On the subject of JLS.  Yes, it was a young person's book, but JLS and Illusions were enough to start me on a lifelong journey of spiritual questioning and questing when I was a teen in the early 80s.  For that, I am deeply grateful to Mr. Bach.

      He has started writing flying stories again, a recent one I read about a year ago was 'Hypnotizing Maria'.  'Out of my mind : the discovery of Saunders-Vixen' came out about 10 years ago.

  •  heh...Ellid, I just realized (4+ / 0-)

    that you could do a whole series of BSBTG just focusing on Bad Books of the '70s.

    Carlos Castenada's first few book weren't actually bad (or so I thought in high school), they were just fiction masquerading as fact.  But there were plenty of terrible-funny books back then.

    Chariots of the Gods?

    The Secret Life of Plants?

    By the way, I actually like gulls...from a bit of distance.  I like their eerie cries, and the way they fly.

    Up close & personal, though, they are definitely sky rats.

    To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

    by Youffraita on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 10:21:13 PM PDT

    •  Maybe the fascination with seagulls (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Youffraita, Ellid, Ahianne, jessical

      has to do with their proximity to the ocean -- and a deep-seated desire to return to our original home.

      (Hmmm, wonder if I could get a book out of that insight?)

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 10:49:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I do love being at the ocean (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, jessical, Monsieur Georges

        but I also love shorebirds of all types.  Piping plovers are especially wonderful, and their species is endangered.  Love terns, too.

        In the winter, out toward Montauk, a lot of arctic species show up -- Montauk region is south for the winter, for an arctic bird.  It's probably the same thing on the west coast.

        Where I live now, there's a preserve that gets a lot of arctic geese every winter.  You wouldn't believe it -- thousands and thousands of different types of arctic geese, all wintering over in south-central PA.

        We also get seagulls.  They tend to overwinter in corn fields, out in the county.  But once in a great while, during the winter, I'll see one flying over the city.

        Once you've birded seagulls, their shape and flight patterns are unmistakeable.

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 10:58:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Piping plover adult: (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Neon Vincent, Ahianne, Loonesta, jessical


        The babies are REALLY cute -- they're about the size of spherical quarters.

        Piping plovers run up to the water's edge as the wave recedes, then run away as the next wave comes in.  SO cute.  They're endangered b/c their habitat has shrunk so much.  Out Fire Island way, they nest near terns.  Terns are ferocious when defending their nesting grounds, and the plovers benefit from it.

        Gulls are ferocious when defending nests, too.  I am not the least bit surprised to learn that they were once dinosaurs.

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Sat Jul 28, 2012 at 11:35:46 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I already mentioned two of them (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ahianne, jessical, LuvSet

      Chariots of the Gods and The Secret Life of Plants.  Haven't done Castenada yet, but he's a future possibility, along with Lynn Andrews' horrible junk, and maybe Shirley MacLaine.

      •  AFAIK, Andrews didn't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        start publishing until the 1980s.  I think MacLaine is in the same time period.

        Never read the MacLaine stuff, but Andrews -- oy!  Awful!

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 11:20:17 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  terrible (0+ / 0-)

    JLS is one of the worst books I have ever read.

  •  I have vageu memories of it--JLS trying a 12-point (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, Monsieur Georges, Youffraita

    roll (I saw a Blue Angel do that and it looked as though the plane was locking into invisible slots. Well, that's why he's a Blue Angel). But I remember the parodies that followed: Jonathan Livingston Vulture ("Carrion! Yum!) and Jonathan Livingston Segal, complete with Jewish mother.

  •  I remember it because the name "Judy Lee" was used (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    … for one of Jonathan's disciples.

    I thought, hey now, cool, that's sort of Chinese or Korean sounding. That's a first! That's a big deal!

    Most folks now are too young to remember, but there was a time when postwar American pop culture made zero references to the fact that Asian Americans even existed. Including Pat Morita in Happy Days and or Mr. Sulu in Star Trek was considered absolutely daring and pioneering.

    It's as if the Powers That Be thought that knee-jerk hate for Asians needed to be kept within easy reach as part of psychological war preparedness. The polar stereotypes of good Charlie Chan and evil slant-eyed arch-villains of the 1930s (Fu Manchu, Ming the Merciless) had to be continually refreshed in people's minds just in case.

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 04:57:09 AM PDT

    •  Sulu was groundbreaking (10+ / 0-)

      He was one of, if not the first, Asian on a network show who wasn't a houseboy or a cook.  And he didn't have a stereotypically "inscrutable" personality.  Sulu was exuberant, extroverted, loved to fence, loved exotic plants, and generally had a great time.  

      As for the man who played him - George Takei is the coolest human being alive.  

      •  Maybe not *the* coolest, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ahianne, Youffraita

        but certainly well up toward the top of the list.

        Strength and dignity are her clothing, she rejoices at the days to come; She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue.

        by loggersbrat on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 12:09:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely agree with this (0+ / 0-)

        having read "To the Stars" made me appreciate all of the Sulu scenes in Star Trek VI the more.  That movie really needed much, much, much more Sulu.

        In general, all of the movies had way too much Kirk, way too little everyone else.  

        Plus, he kicked righteous booty on "Heroes" - but that's a different thread.

      •  when's Mr Takei (0+ / 0-)

        going to revise his autobiography "To the Stars"? I wanna read the version that doesn't excise entirely his personal life.

    •  What about Hawaii Five-O? (0+ / 0-)

      The original series, I mean.

      But then Hawaii was considered very exotic (e.g., it had the only royal palace in the US) into the 1970s. And I don't remember what the ratio of whites vs. non-whites were in a show set in the only state that did not have a majority of white inhabitants. (The remake does touch occasionally on the racial tensions in that state -- between the scenes of unrealistic violence.)

      •  Star Trek beat them by two years (0+ / 0-)

        That was a terrific series.

        •  Well I had to ask (0+ / 0-)

          I remember the original Star Trek quite well, most likely because I watched the original shows from the second season on. On the other hand, I barely remember Hawaii Five-O; I may have seen one or two episodes. It's just that whenever someone makes an assertion that "this was so", I find myself playing Devil's Advocate.

          I do remember that was the time when most Indians were portrayed by whites & Native Indians on tv, & if Asians were cast to play Japanese & Chinese characters it was remarkable.

          •  Still fatal to be Asian-American in some quarters (0+ / 0-)

            … even now.

            Hazing is also integral to the military, where suicide—including the recent suicide of a Chinese-American soldier, Pvt. Danny Chen, in Afghanistan—is often the result. It is almost impossible to escape your tormentors in the military. Suicide becomes for many the only exit. Chen, who was the sole Asian-American in his unit, endured sandbags being tied to his arms by fellow soldiers. Rocks and water bottles were thrown at him. He was forced to speak Chinese instead of English. And he was taunted with the slurs “gook,” “slant,” “chink” and “egg roll.” Eight soldiers are being court-martialed in his death. A huge percentage of the suicides in the military happen because of hazing. Most of these cases are never investigated. The bodies are just shipped home.

            The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

            by lotlizard on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:42:38 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  Detective shows were so tied to genre conventions. (0+ / 0-)

        Run-of-the-mill detective shows proliferated in the early decades of TV. Studios stamped out cookie-cutter variations on the same play-it-safe known formula.

        To a "local" person, the "in Hawaii" aspect of a detective show usually came across as just some local-color garnish tacked on. We couldn't really see ourselves or anybody we knew in the stories.

        Before Hawaii Five-O, there was Hawaiian Eye (and a bit later there was Magnum P.I.). Take 77 Sunset Strip, plug Honolulu into the formula and get Hawaiian Eye. Plug in New Orleans, it's Bourbon Street Beat. Plug in Miami, it's Surfside Six. You get the idea.

        The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

        by lotlizard on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 12:12:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Like a gull over sea — Dutch children's song (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    … from Kinderen voor Kinderen's 25th anniversary show.

    Low bandwidth version with rough English translation (expand the description section to see):

    Higher quality version:

    The Dutch kids' chorus Kinderen voor Kinderen wishes all the world's children freedom from hunger, ignorance, and war.

    by lotlizard on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:08:12 AM PDT

  •  Nice diary even if it is marred by anti-gull (3+ / 0-)

    prejudice.  I have sorely missed gulls whenever I have lived where they are not.

    "We are normal and we want our freedom" - Bonzos

    by matching mole on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:14:52 AM PDT

  •  JLS bad, The Prophet good, 1970s mixed (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    llywrch, Monsieur Georges, Youffraita

    Yes, I dared to say that Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet is good. I know that cloying people with overly earnest faces have gripped your shirt in the past, but the man's not to blame for what happened.

    The 1970's tendency to spiritual tourism and K-Mart shopping of philosophy was a mixed bag. Most of what they put in the bag was a confirmation of what they already had -- it demonstrated what they wanted to find -- but the convoluted, polluted admix of William James dump did allow greater tolerance and widen the vocabulary a little.

    Remember that Eagleton was disqualified for vice president for the shame of depression. Commercials in prime time now make it shameful to not have depression.

    Alan Watt was giving us light Zen. Gibran was giving us a Christian/Islamic synthetic with Sufism (yes, he was a Christian). The Buddhists were percolating through all sorts of places and people, and then psychology, rather than psychiatry, could go from the academic paper to the best seller list in a year or two, whether it was idiotic (Rolfing, Est, etc.) or not. The down side, for me, was that the motive was "I am not complete," and the result therefore was "How to make you you, without them."

    Everyone is innocent of something.

    by The Geogre on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:16:34 AM PDT

  •  Illusions and JLS (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    LSophia, MarcKyle64

    are two great books if you are a deep thinker.

    JLS is a seagull that is tired of being a seagull. He wants to fly higher, do more, and get away from the 'flock mentality'.

    Theres alot to be read into that

    Illusions is one of my favorite books ever just for some of the witty, banter, nd the concept alone. A Messiah that does not want to be a messiah because of all the attention? Makes a hell of a lot of sense.

    The metaphor at the beginning about the barnacle at the bottom of the river, just holding on like everyone else, until he decides to let go.... and all of a sudden he is flying. A messiah amongst barnacles.

    These are not bad books at all. Sometimes bad writing... but definately not bad books.

    'One'  is another great Bach book.

    War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defense to say, "I was just following orders." G.W Bush

    by LieparDestin on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:19:11 AM PDT

  •  I'm not certain, (0+ / 0-)

    But I think my sixth-grade class read JLS back in the mid-70s.  At that age, the book seemed really profound.

    "We *can* go back to the Dark Ages! The crust of learning and good manners and tolerance is so thin!" -- Sinclair Lewis

    by Nespolo on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 05:19:59 AM PDT

    •  Req reading in my HS (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ellid, Monsieur Georges

      I had already read it by then, but it was one of a few titles on a required reading list. I loved the book for a couple of weeks, and then I began to get really nauseated. It was like stuffing down five funnel cakes and a fried Snickers bar: there is that initial grin, and then. . . it all wants to come back up.

      By the time it was on the list at school, I regarded it as yogi bull flop. If the message was, "Doggone it, be the best you you can be," that didn't sit well with my guilt-ridden fundamentalism of the day.

      Everyone is innocent of something.

      by The Geogre on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 08:09:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  No shame - no blame (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Snow Camp, LSophia, MarcKyle64, Youffraita

    Say what you will - JLS and Illusions got many of us through adolescent times of utter loneliness and spiritual despair, surrounded by christian fundamentalists and haters of all strips trying to bang "You're Not Enough" messages into our heads. They don't need to be the ultimate Truth for all, forever. Like Stranger in a Strange Land, they may be total fairy tales, but they can lift us up and help us carry on with messages of hope and magic. Everybody needs a little magic now and then,

    •  Indeed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Monsieur Georges

      As I said above, if these books helped, they helped, and I'm glad they did.  Everyone has their preferences.

    •  This entire thread (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      reminds me of going into a music shop in the 80's and buying some pop album, and having the cashier (wearing a Dead Kennedy's button) look down on me for buying it.

      I read it somewhere in my early teens, and quite liked it.  

      I have never really understood the need on the part of some to declare a certain type of book or painting "terrible".

      It sold well because people - a lot of people -  could relate to it.

      This is not an insigificant accomplishment.

      No, it's not Proust (though I can count on one hand the number of people who have actually read all seven novels - no book has more lies told about it than the Rememberance of Things Past, unless it is Joyce's Ulysses).  

      But in the end, why does that matter?

      And yes, I have.

      The bitter truth of deep inequality has been disguised by an era of cheap imported goods and the anyone-can-make-it celebrity myth - Polly Toynbee

      by fladem on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 08:52:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Different people have different responses (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Monsieur Georges

        Nothing wrong with that.

        •  NOW you tell us. (0+ / 0-)

          Longtime veteran of the Prog-Rock Wars here.  I'm sorry people are taking it all out on you, but, well, we won't be heard otherwise.

          The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

          by Panurge on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:49:49 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  One of these days (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Monsieur Georges

        I am going to attempt Joyce's Ulysses again.  With the most recent edition, probably.

        But I will tackle it the way a friend's very eccentric husband counseled years ago:  I will not read it in order from beginning to end.

        I already love Molly Bloom's soliloquy.  What kept stopping me was Chapter One, the Stephen Daedalus stuff.

        Unreadable, to my adolescent self.  But Adam said he hadn't been much of a reader, either, but he picked up Ulysses and opened it in the middle, and liked it: so he kept reading.  At random.  Until he had eventually read the whole thing.

        Sounds like something Joyce would appreciate, actually.

        To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

        by Youffraita on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 11:36:50 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  If my rec button would work (0+ / 0-)

        I would rec your comment.

        "I'm grateful for my job - truly, but still...ugh." CityLightsLover

        by Audri on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:56:06 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  sigh. If my rec button would work (0+ / 0-)

      I would rec your comment.

      "I'm grateful for my job - truly, but still...ugh." CityLightsLover

      by Audri on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 08:55:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Because of my terrible... (4+ / 0-)

    ...print addiction, I have to confess that I've read JLS, "Reluctant Messiah," AND "Bridge Across Forever."  They're all that bad.

    I have also read the Christianist parody of "Jonathan Livingston Seagull," which is titled "Benjamin Alexander Sheep" — and let me tell you what a rotten book it is, too.

    Freedom isn't "on the march." Freedom dances.

    by WarrenS on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 06:26:12 AM PDT

    •  The mere idea of a Christian parody (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Makes my blood run cold.

    •  The fundamentalists had a fit (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      WarrenS, llywrch, Monsieur Georges

      But the reactionaries are always a bit dry. There were a lot of parodies of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, going all the way to "Beavis and Butthead Do America." (In fact, Mike Judge's "mmKay" counselor is straight out of JLS readership.)

      For a while, there was a good parody market on nearly anything. The Prophet, generated "The Profit," and the greatest of all of them was Bored of the Rings, which is one of the funniest things I've read. I understand that the "Twilight" books have generated similar parodies.

      In my book, parody is good. We need it. It is an exceptionally complex artform with a really interesting moral dynamic of its own. (Simple terms: JLS had in common with the rout of the others, "You're fine." Fundamentalists from the protestant side were still not hyper Calvinists then, so they had a big emphasis on guilt and sin. Catholics and old line churches, obviously, believe in sin and failing, as well as redemption. Now, the fundamentalists seem to have abandoned guilt and sin (long story), but they believe, nonetheless, that 1972-5 was when The World went bad.) A Christian parody makes a person's blood run cold? Seems like a good perspective for a satirical stance to me; depends on the skill.

      Everyone is innocent of something.

      by The Geogre on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 08:17:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Bored of the Rings ROCKED (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre

        I ADORE that book and can quote whole pages.

      •  Don Quixote (Cervantes) and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Geogre, Monsieur Georges

        Northanger Abbey (Austen) are both species of parody, intending to poke fun at a popular genre and ending up rather better than their inspirations - or at least as enduring.

        •  Parody is my bag (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Monsieur Georges, LuvSet

          I mean professionally.

          I could write about it, but it has only marginal political contact.

          Cervantes and Austen were doing a . . . let's say "truer" . . . form of parody than some of the other objects. I'll toss out this nugget: Parody is an imitation with intent to amuse. Satire is a critique designed to amuse.

          For centuries, parodies were not satirical. That all changed with Jonathan Swift and Alexander Pope (maybe it goes to Dryden). They introduced satirical parody, and Jonathan Swift invented, single handedly, prose parody. Thereafter, there was a choice: the parody could be of the person or of the form or of the work.

          Cervantes had imitated the formal conventions of the Romance, and introduced into it an exaggeration -- "how would this world look if it were placed against reality" is hilarious, because the satire is not in the parody. That really blossoms in the 18th c. Austen takes the genre of what people now call the "gothic," but she blends it with her own narrative voice, and so it is a pure parody of the style, with a narrative satire. The narrative voice is happy to belittle the conventions.

          Anyway, this is my bag, as I said. Don't even ask me about the guilt and innocence of the parodist.

          Everyone is innocent of something.

          by The Geogre on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:11:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  '72 to '75? (0+ / 0-)

        Doesn't EVERYONE believe that that was "when The World went bad"?  Not me, of course, but I'm nearly all alone out here, it seems.

        The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

        by Panurge on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 07:52:27 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I was aware of all the fuss about the book (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    The Geogre, Ellid

    but had no real interest so didn't read it. Quite a while later, after its popularity had diminished to zilch, while trapped on vacation in a house with very few books, I came across it and read it, which as I recall probably took like 20 minutes.

    I see its popularity as just one of those fads like pet rocks and body piercing, that sort of take off out of nowhere for no reason that anyone can understand, and then fade out to be replaced before long by the next one.

  •  A Journey Around My Room (3+ / 0-)

    I really don't know if this is 'so bad it is good' because the author undoubtedly intended a certain level of parody in his work. But I have always wanted to feature it here, even if I am once again late to the party.

    In the late 18th century Xavier de Maistre, a French noble and soldier, was  imprisoned in his room for six weeks. He used the time to best use by embarking on a 42 day metaphysical 'Journey Around His Room.'


    Do not reproach me for the prolixity with which I narrate the details of my journey. This is the wont of travellers. When one sets out for the ascent of Mont Blanc, or to visit the yawning tomb of Empedocles, the minutest particulars are carefully described. The number of persons who formed the party, the number of mules, the quality of the food, the excellent appetite of the travellers, everything, to the very stumbling of the quadrupeds, is carefully noted down for the instruction of the sedentary world.

    Upon this principle, I resolved to speak of my dog Rose,  an amiable creature for whom I entertain sincere regard,  and to devote a whole chapter to her.

    It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America. - Molly Ivins

    by se portland on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 08:27:55 AM PDT

  •  I'm going to disagree (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    with the exception of the prose, which I can't remember and might very well be horrible.

    There's really nothing wrong with a short story taking older ideas, particularly unfamiliar ones, and retelling them. It's not a Christian allegory at all. If you try to read it like that, you'll get confused.

    The core of the first part is along the lines of Chuang Tzu's Butcher (Zhuangzi), from 300BC (an early Taoist). I don't see anything wrong or mockable in JLS retelling that story. Douglas Adams does the same when he has Arthur Dent as The Sandwich Maker.

    The second part is JLS as "sheperd-like" Bodhisattva. It's not Christian except in the sense that some Christians seem to think that all sacrifice in literature anywhere is a Christian allegory. I remember thinking the second part as being weaker, but that's a common story failure.

    So you have a story based on a retelling of non-western themes. Maybe it didn't deserve to be as popular as it became, but I'm not sure why it deserves the scorn.

    I won't defend his later stuff because those are loopy, but I don't see anything intrinsically wrong with JLS itself.

    •  I thought it was simplistic and rather silly (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Monsieur Georges

      But as I've said a couple of times already, different people have different responses to books.  This author's work struck me as somewhat ridiculous, which is a shame since Bach can write very well when he wants to.  If others enjoyed JLS and found it worthy, I have no problem with that.

  •  JLS (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I not only read it, it was the topic of my high school senior year required report on "The Romantic Hero."  We had read Don Quixote the 2nd quarter and our quarter end assignment was to pick a hero, write about him / her and, with footnotes, prove why this subject was your hero.  

    "Can a Seagull be a Hero?" was the longest, most researched and foot noted report in the class.  In 1975, JLS was being used as inspiration by many groups like AA, NA, church groups... My teacher kept it - recently saw him at a school reunion event, he had just retired.  We were his 2nd class after he got his degree.  

    Something of a flower child / combo surfer & skateboarder, Mr. Hudak, took us to places in literature - sometimes kicking and screaming - that left a whole bunch of us with a life long love of the obscure, the non-traditional, the richness of language and other people's words and thoughts.  Every time I hear American Pie on the radio, I think of him breaking down every line - what does it mean?  What's he trying to really tell you here?  Where does it take you when you hear it?  

    I saw the JLS movie, twice.  I have the soundtrack LP and CD - it's on my iPod, too.  Neil Diamond's poetry...

    Years later, my son found my senior class yearbook, where Mr. Hudak had written some of the lyrics:

    As a page that aches for a word
    Which speaks on a theme that is timeless
    He asked me what it was from.  I gave him my CD to listen to and then we went on a search for my book.  So he read it and took it to school - it was out of print by then, and his English teacher was "Wow!  Where did you get that?"  He did a report on it and read it to the class (it's a short book, he read some every day) and they had a big discussion on dreams and living your life and not letting anybody beat you down.  That was pretty cool :)  He's got his own copy now, that we found online from a used book store.  He's got the DVD of the movie, too - sorta cheesy graphics now by today's standards, but it's a story we both love.  

    Never settle for less than you can Be.  Follow your heart, don't limit yourself.  

    "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

    by Ricochet67 on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 10:46:29 AM PDT

    •  That's a great story (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You had a terrific teacher.

      •  Teachers (0+ / 0-)

        Yup, I think we've all had one or two great teachers that influenced us the rest of our lives... and none of us get to wherever we end up without some influence, assistance or support :)

        I also think that the things you read as a child or young person have more influence on you than anything else you ever read.  Heard something like that in a movie once - I think it was "You've Got Mail" - Meg Ryan as the children's book store owner said something along those lines.  

        My fifth grade teacher read to us every day after lunch - The Black Stallion, A Wrinkle in Time, The Phantom Toll Booth - so many others - most of them I got my hands on my own version have passed down to my son.  

        "Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it's only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realize your true potential." - Barack Obama

        by Ricochet67 on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 06:52:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  For me it was Mr. Kenny and Mrs. Mercaldi (0+ / 0-)

          He was the sixth grade teacher who introduced me to The Hobbit.  She was the Creative Writing teacher who told my mother that I could write.

          They made the difference.

  •  I never read any of this stuff (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Closest I ever came was attempting to read Baba Ram Dass, Stephen Gaskin, Carlos Castenada and Tom Robbins. Couldn't finish a one. Bored me to tears. Made me an outlier amongst my counter cultural peers.

    Of course they were mostly middle class suburban sophisticates, while my background was a rural southern, cross class mix of clergy, working class and farmer/landowners. I was in the first generation of my family to grow up in the city. Naturally this gave me a much different perspective.

    At the same time I was very taken with the Beats. Particularly Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and Corso. Not so much Burroughs and Kerouac.

    I seem to have an aversion to platitudinous, ostentatiously "spiritual" stuff. Particularly if it all seems to amount to self-justifying pretexts for navel gazing.  

    Nothing human is alien to me.

    by WB Reeves on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 11:51:33 AM PDT

    •  Well, your taste shows, esp. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Monsieur Georges

      w/Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg (don't know Corso).

      I was (and to a degree still am) an omnivore when it comes to books.  I liked the first three or four by Castaneda.  Of course, I was also in high school and less picky.

      Never read the other three in your first paragraph.  Tried to read Robbins and basically never got past page two.  He is truly awful.

      To make the argument that the media has a left- or right-wing, or a liberal or a conservative bias, is like asking if the problem with Al-Qaeda is do they use too much oil in their hummus. Al Franken

      by Youffraita on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 11:48:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The other thing about JLS (0+ / 0-)

    It wasn't just the philosophy - there were photos in the book as well, by Russell Munson. Munson is well regarded for his aerial photography. Then there's this.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 01:55:59 PM PDT

  •  I'm surprised (0+ / 0-)

    no one has brought up Hermann Hesse or W. Somerset Maugham. I remember Steppenwolf  as being bigger than JLS,  and Maugham had gone from being the melodrama version of Steven King to butt of jokes on Sonny and Cher. My idol at the time was John Updike, but he's obviously unqualified for BSBTG, and never overly popular enough to be the butt of jokes.

  •  I think I watched JLS in grade school (0+ / 0-)

    although, if it was a theatrically released movie, I don't know how prints could have gotten into public schools in the mid-70s ... so maybe I just came across it on TV?

    I think I read the book - or tried to - but I don't remember it as satisfying, other than being sort of fascinated by the seagull pictures. And liking the idea of a book for grown-ups featuring an anthropomorphic animal - like the rabbit novel Watership Down, maybe.

    Plus I liked the seagull's fancy name.

    I've never attempted any other books by Bach but they seem to turn up on remainder tables where I look for deals on books I am interested in reading.

  •  Yeah I got exposed to the whole JLS thing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Dragged to the movie by my mom, as I recall, who liked dragging me and my sister to movies. Then read the book. Since I was somewhat of a loner it had a little bit of resonance for me. . .but as I got older I decided it was a piece of crap. And I think Bach is a lousy prose stylist, for all his mystic pretentions.

    Frankly - and I don't mean to shock anyone - if I'm going to fuck around, I'd prefer doing it without the pretentions and soggy new age justifications, which as I recall were often used as pick-up lines to entice the willing and the credulous into the bed of whoever used them.

    An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

    by MichiganChet on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 10:06:36 PM PDT

  •  Uh, Creem magazine was not "wholesome" (3+ / 0-)

    Detroit's legendary Creem was a publisher of Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Dave Marsh, Robert Christgau's Consumer Guide, and a lot of writing that was brilliant and truly subversive.

    To lump it in with Tiger Beat and Seventeen is a tourist's error.

    We're through being cool. Eliminate the ninnies and the twits. -- Devo

    by Woodrow Stool on Sun Jul 29, 2012 at 10:52:07 PM PDT

  •  "....Tiger Beat, Seventeen, Creem...." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Monsieur Georges


    Creem was the cool alternative to Rolling Stone, not a teenybopper magazine.

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:06:46 AM PDT

  •  Never read JLS or anything else by Bach (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    After reading your beautifully written review, Ellid, I feel very fortunate indeed not to have read them!

    The banality you describe in those books reminds me strongly of my feelings when reading The Celestine Prophecy, a book so bad that years later, I'm still reeling.

    But then, I've never liked or understood these much-vaunted "spiritual guidance" books:  not the ones recommended by Oprah (attempted to read them, could not understand them at all), nor those written by anyone else.  I did read and understand How to Win Friends and Influence People. Acting on the advice therein did help me ease into a freelance gig where I would be working with a lot of different people for six months.

    But other than that, I'm glad I've mostly read fiction.

    "Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

    by Diana in NoVa on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 04:36:19 AM PDT

    •  Never read Celestine Prophecy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Diana in NoVa

      Or A Course in Miracles, or any of the others.  I get my theology straight from the likes of Augustine of Hippo and Teresa of Avila.

    •  Ha ha ha I had someone give me TCP as well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      And thought about it pretty much as you did, but since we were at the time, um, intimate, you might say, I politely agreed to read it through. Ugh.

      On the other hand, I kept the copy, if only for a memento.

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:49:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Jonathon Livingston (0+ / 0-)

    and his brother, Aden "Bite" Livingston were aviator pioneers in Iowa. They were famous barnstormers.

    "There must be more to life than having everything" -Maurice Sendak

    by lilypew on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:34:31 AM PDT

  •  I was in junior high school when the book came out (0+ / 0-)

    I would be lying if I said the book didn't have an impact on me.  My parents were (and are) good people, but not exactly life-affirming.  And I was a bit of an odd bird.  So the boost I got from JLS was like water in the desert for me.

    I have no illusions about the quality of the book or the writing, but it meant a lot to me at the time.  I suppose I was the right age for it.

    Ancora Impara--Michelangelo

    by aravir on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 05:49:23 AM PDT

  •  I thought this was BSBTG (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ferg, MichiganChet

    Books so bad they're Good, not "ewww, yes, that was a terrible book," or, something like "I'm embarrassed that I liked this book," which is what most of the comments seem to have to say this time.
    I'm pretty intimidated by all those comments. I loved JLS when I read it. So what? I also loved Little Golden Books when I read them.

    I still love Illusions and One and Bridge Across Forever and I feel pretty defensive, coming after a lot of the comments above, saying that and I'm sorry to find that I do.

    "I'm grateful for my job - truly, but still...ugh." CityLightsLover

    by Audri on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 09:04:41 AM PDT

    •  It's OK, we are pretty tolerant here (0+ / 0-)

      I give people the benefit of the doubt if they are able to articulate a case of why something is or is not good, even if I feel the opposite. Dialogue is always refreshing.

      An empty head is not really empty; it is stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. -- Eric Hoffer

      by MichiganChet on Mon Jul 30, 2012 at 12:51:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You are not the only one who likes Bach's work (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There is nothing wrong with that.  Everyone has their own responses to a book, and you should not let anyone shame you into silence.  I freely admit that I could be wrong about JLS, and it could become a treasured classic enjoyed hundreds of years from now.  Just because I wasn't all that impressed doesn't meant that I'm right.

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