Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Review: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Title: Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Author: Richard Bach
Genre: Literary
Photographer: Russell Munson
Publisher: Scribner
First published: 1970

Rating - 3 out of 10

I approached this book expecting to be astounded and moved by its aforementioned lyrical beauty. Perhaps my expectations had been built up too high, but I was very disappointed.

The first half of this book, which was about Jonathan Seagull learning to fly, and subsequent banishment from his flock, was good. I liked the picture that Bach put in your mind, his descriptions, and the factual yet simplistically graceful way that he wrote.

However, I was incredulous at the complete turn-around this book makes in the second half of the story. Abruptly, this book turns from poetic literature to mystical sci-fi.

An old seagull, who is apparently 1,000 years old, begins training Jonathan Seagull how to disappear and re-appear anywhere on earth, or even on other earths. Jonathan stands on the beach for days, trying to train his mind to be able to do it.
The scene heavily reminded me of Yoda training Luke to do magical / force stuff with his mind in the swamp.
And of course, eventually Jonathan (or, might I say, his Jedi mind tricks) succeed. He opens his eyes and is suddenly on another planet with three green moons!
I laughed a loud here, thinking "What?!"

The rest of the book tries to combine the earlier beautiful writing style with this new plot, besides (if you can believe it) including yet another outlandish plot.

Jonathan Seagull becomes a teacher himself, teaching other young birds that flying involves love, and a certain mindset. This part reminded me of yoga classes.

I was even further amused when the author began introducing a Christian allegory into the story. Jonathan gathers followers (he is their teacher), including one in particular that is close to him (Peter). He goes back to his old flock to teach the birds how to fly. Some join him, but most criticize him. Rumors begin that he is the Son of the Great God. By the way, this 'Great God' had never been mentioned anywhere else in the book, and conveniently pop up in the flock's culture out of nowhere.
Eventually, the flock tries to kill him. Afterward, he preaches to his followers that they must go on, and continue loving the flock, even if they did just turn murderous. And he disappears - just like Jesus.

I feel as if the author had three completely different book ideas here. A poetic, simplistic inspiring book about seagulls, the wind, and the ocean. A very nice idea!
But wait, I've always wanted to write a science fiction book.
Or how about, a book about Jesus - except he is a seagull?
How about all three?!

As you can probably assume, I did not like this book. Even the photographs disappointed me. Many of them seemed to be the exact same as previous ones, or even the exact same as on the page before.

I couldn't enjoy this strange little book.