The Ghost in Love Audio CD – Oct 1 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Death is not the end but rather the start of a series of madcap and sometimes moving adventures for characters in this spry novel about the un-afterlife. Events begin on a wintry day in Connecticut when Ben Gould slips and hits his head on a curb. He should have died, but owing to a virus in heaven's computer system, Ben's body lives on. Soon, Ben and others in his life—including his talking dog, Pilot, and his own ghost (named Ling)—find themselves endowed with extraordinary and unpredictable talents, including time traveling, the ability to hobnob with multiple incarnations of their younger selves, and a capacity to see otherwise invisible forces of fate manifested in bizarre physical forms. Carroll (Glass Soup) tethers the series of loopy incidents that ensues and their shaggy-dog explanation to incisive and poignant observations about the wondrous possibilities of everyday life that are the hallmark of his flippant style of fantasy. Carroll fans will best appreciate this jeu d'esprit. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"In The Ghost In Love Jonathan Carroll deepens his art, diving into his own obsessions with love and fate, without letting go of an ounce of the uncanny effervescent quality that has always caused readers to crave his narratives like an illegal substance. He's created a version of the world that shines like a beacon into our own." —Jonathan Lethem, author of You Don’t Love Me Yet
"With The Ghost In Love, Jonathan Carroll is at the peak of his powers. An acknowledged master." —Bruce Wagner, author of Memorial
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Top Customer Reviews
It does not, and you will not. The second half of the book is a steady slope downhill to some sort of insane understanding of personality/identity, and the end of the book is just stupid... (a philosophy text written by someone who's had too much to drink?)
The description and title are misleading... if you stretch your imagination, it's about a man falling in love (or at least coming to terms with) with the various aspects of himself, but the ghost falling in love is a very minor and almost unnecessary add-on to the story.
I did finish it, but only because I kept hoping it would make sense at the end... now I wish I had skipped to the end from the half-way point, and then moved on to my next book.
And he's in full-force in "The Ghost in Love," a deeply unconventional little love story that floats along in a mellow, quirky haze. As if Carroll's warm, whimsical style weren't enough, the story is populated with angels, vagrants, ghosts, talking dogs reborn from past girlfriends, and a man haunted by a celestial computer bug. Yes, it's at least half as odd as it sounds.
After adopting the rather fatalistic dog Pilot from a shelter, Benjamin falls, cracks his head, and dies.
Or rather, that is what SHOULD have happened. His ghost is informed by the Angel of Death that due to a bizarre error, he hasn't died -- and until further notice, the ghost is to hang around and observe. But Benjamin's failure to die is having a bizarre ripple effect on the world -- the Angel is wounded, and time seems to warp around Ben.
The strange events of his death (and subsequent life) become clearer when Pilot (whose past life connects him to Ben) tells his owner everything. Past selves and mysterious verzes all appear around the three humans and the talking dog -- which is made even more complicated by the fact that Ben's ghost Ling has fallen in love with the vibrant German.
"The Ghost in Love" is one of those stories that is really hard to classify -- it happily straddles fences between magical realism, pure fantasy, love stories and ghost story. And Jonathan Carroll has a knack for coming up with unique plots, such as: what if a man who didn't actually die was being haunted by his own ghost? Ah, such strangeness.
The main flaw with Carroll's story is that it's saturated with past selves and memories, so the point where it gets kind of confusing.Read more ›
So I read it and from the first page I couldn't put it down. I was hooked on the craziness, the vivid descriptions, and the beautiful and surprising philosophical paragraphs that would just come out of the blue. This book was unique and lovely in its own way, but at times it went too far and it just started to sound a little over the top, even for a complete fantasy. The lessons on life, love and identity get lost in the confusion. The ending was so mediocre that the book received a two for me - as far as I am concerned, i the ending is a disappointment the book is as well. I've never taken acid, but if I could imagine what it would be like, this book would be it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Ben Gould has a brush with death and survives, now accompanied by his ghost. The human struggle to become an integrated whole instead of just living on the surface of our thoughts and actions is universal. Jung identified the subconscious, the unconscious, and the conscious parts of our nature. He noted that unless we are enlightened to these aspects of ourselves, we tend to live narrowly on the surface, conscious state. But the underlying fears, feelings, and buried experiences impede us when we do not acknowledge them and deal with the complexities and contradictions that have accumulated. What Carroll does is make these mental states manifest in physical form in order that some of his characters can literally confront their conflicted, repressed, and suppressed "selves" and fully integrate into a whole, vital self. Ben's journey, which is initially circumspect, is a quest for wholeness. We are our own worst enemies! What a beautiful and humane concept for a story.
Ben's age is left out, as well as his personality. He hasn't allowed himself to blossom. This imperils his relationship with his now ex-girlfriend, German, who is a bit more satisfying but still suffers from lackluster appeal. Carroll's descriptions may have been intentionally vague, especially with Ben, to illuminate his lack of full engagement with life. However, German's character, which is a counterpoint to Ben's, did not lift-off for me. She was sweet and bland and forgettable.
The ghost has an essential role,(and I do not want to give away the ghost's raison d'etre) but is a little too precious--I do not think the author intended that, but he didn't pull off his design with allure. Even when the ghost's presence is understood toward the end of the novel, I winced at the overly adorable character.
Rounding out the cast are Jung's archetypes, (a necessary ingredient in Jung's psychology), a woman who shares something poignant with Ben, some ingenious anthropomorphic creatures, and Ben and German's dog. It is the dog, Pilot, who was the most interesting and fully developed. Most of the other characters are eccentric with a limited supply of essence, although important to the dynamics of the story.
The innovative plot is refreshing and ripe. I would give 5 stars for its provocative creativity and intelligence. That is what kept me reading to the story's completion.
The mood and atmosphere remain the biggest problems in the narrative. This is a surreal world with (supposedly) eerie juxtapositions and some creepy, idiosyncratic characters. Individuals and scenes flicker in and out and time is a loose concept, which could be very suspenseful and unearthly. But the prose style and language choices annihilate the story's suspense--it is too banal and lacks the sensuousness and shimmer that would have provided texture and tautness. I did not thoroughly inhabit the world that Carroll created because I was not sensually pulled into it; dramatic tension disappeared with the ghost because of the bland execution of story.
A visionary director may conceivably make this novel into a compelling movie. By furnishing the film with nuances and subtleties of story and blending a haunting atmosphere with macabre wit, rich characters, and psychological intensity, this could achieve with a camera what it failed to communicate with prose.
To begin, this book is amazing. It's completely out of this world while taking place in modern day reality, if that's possible! Wildly inventive with enough regular life mixed in to make it perfect.
Its reminiscent of a couple of other things that I love and not in a copy cat kind of way. Johnathan Carroll has a similar writing style to Neil Gaiman, with a very whimsical prose and they're both beyond creative. At times it reminded me of The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger with the time travel and love aspects. Also of the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for the "what is going on?!" kind of feel, like you're totally just chasing yourself in circles. If any of these interest you, I think you'd love this book.
There was so much story in 308 pages, that it's impossible to categorize. I won't go over what it's about because it can be read in the Amazon description or in another review. I will say, it was much different then I expected from the short synopsis that I read. But don't mistake 'different' for bad. This book was enlightening, amazing, funny, and thought provoking. A lot of the time I found myself exclaiming outloud -- tons of "what?!?!" or "you've got to be kidding" coming out of my mouth without my realizing it until my boyfriend would ask from another room what was wrong. It had feelings of The Time Traveler's Wife in that a couple times I was just so entirely confused I had to put down the book and work it out in my head. Sometimes It was so close to over my head, but then I would be able to grasp it. Most of the time I can speed read thru books, but this one I wanted to savor, and I took my time with it, not reading more then 50 pages at a time. It's main themes are love, learning to live with all parts of yourself both good and bad, and taking control of your own destiny.
UPDATE 12/08: I let my best friend and my mom borrow this book and neither of them liked it. My best friend isn't so keen on fantastical stuff mixed into reality so that's definitely why it didn't work for her. She particularly hated one of the creatures in the book, which I think is what really ruined it for her. My mom usually reads kids fantasy books(Harry Potter, Twilight series, Erragon), so it was too far out for her as well. I like stories that make me think, analyze and that I have to really have a super imagination for.
I stumbled upon "A Ghost in Love" in Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, WA. Little did I know that one of my favorite writers had a new book out (well, I guess not THAT new), but Auntie's would be the place I would find it.
Somehow I held off and didn't start "Ghost" until days later when I was ready to sit down and bit off a big chunk, and then I fell into the world of Ben Gould and German Landis, and Pilot, their dog.
The reader is introduces to German in a perfect way, "Fifteen blocks away, a woman was walking down the street, carrying a large letter `D'." Of course she was. In a Jonathan Carroll book, of course she was. It is explained later, and everything ends up making sense, it's just a wonderful of making sure the reader is paying attention.
"A Ghost in Love" is about love and life and the choices people make in both. It deals with who people are at various stages in their lives and how later, all of those people and choices intersect. Instead of waxing philosophic about two such universal subjects, Carroll creates a world of ghosts, talking dogs and verses...and makes his points with a different slant to them.
"A Chinese farmer invented the idea of ghosts three thousand years ago as a way of explaining to his precious grandson what happens to people after they die. God thought it was such a novel and useful idea that He told his angels to make the concept real and allow it to flourish within the system."
And "German Landis simply didn't understand people who moped. Life was too interesting to choose suffering. Although she got a big kick out of him, she thought her brother, Guy, was goofy for spending his life writing songs only about things that either stank or sucked. In response, he drew a picture of what her gravestone would look like if he designed it: a big yellow smiley face on it and the words I LIKE BEING DEAD!"
Although I keep mentioning the humor and wonderful absurdity that I find in Carroll's books - it's the heart to them that keeps me coming back. He creates characters that I root for and laugh with and start to adore.
"Danielle put a hand flat against her chest. "We're born with everything in here - everything we need to be happy and complete. But as soon as life starts frightening us, we give away pieces of ourselves to make the danger go away. It's a trade: you want life to stop scaring you, so you give it a part of yourself. You give away your pride, your dignity, or your courage...When all you feel is fear, you don't need dignity. So you don't mind giving that away - at the moment. But you regret it later because you'll need all those pieces."
I found such beauty in this book. Even though I was lost at times, many times, it's such a wonderful journey that I didn't care. When by turns, I can read something that makes me laugh out loud and then something that makes me slow down and read again to capture the meaning and beauty of a phrase, then I am enjoying a book to the fullest.
And in this book, there was a part about a childhood object that took me back in time, recovered a memory for me that I'd though I'd lost.
"Usually at least once in a person's childhood we lose an object that at the time is invaluable and irreplaceable to us, although it is worthless to others. Many people remember that article for the rest of their lives...If we describe it to others and explain why it was so important, even those who love us smile indulgently because to them it sounds like a trivial thing to lose. Kid stuff. But it is not. Those who forget about this object have lost a valuable, even crucial memory. Because something central to our younger self resided in that thing. When we lost it, for whatever reason, a part of us shifted permanently."
For me, that object was an ivory (probably fake ivory) bracelet that my dad bought me at a Chinese restaurant. When it broke, I knew something, some part of me, was broken and couldn't stop crying. When I read the passage above, the memory of the delight in having it and the sorrow in losing it came back to me.
That's the power of books. We live lives that are not our own, and in doing so, discover things about ourselves and others that we might never have known, or have forgotten. This idea of forgotten or unknown aspects to ourselves is woven throughout "A Ghost in Love" in a wonderful way. We are the sum of all that we have done...and more than that, we are different things to different people.
"Why do people love us, Ben? We're always trying to figure that out, but only by using our own point of view. That's so limited. Sometimes they love us for things we don't even know about ourselves. For example, they love our hands. My hands? Why would someone love my hands? But they've got their reasons. You must accept that and realize that the Ben they know is different from the Ben you know."
"The Ghost in Love", too, is a book that is different for me than it is for any other person; all books are. The version of it read through my eyes? Wonderful.
Take, for example, this conversation between two characters. When one character assures another that she likes being alive, the second (one of the bad guys in the book) responds, "Why? Life's chaotic, full of pain and suffering. It's unreliable and as disorderly as you can get. Nothing in life lasts, nothing's permanent, and there's not one thing that you can trust 100%. Admit it: if a person had all those lousy qualities, you'd never want to be around them."
What makes this novel so remarkable is that all of these insights are embedded in prose that is well-written, easy to read, and entertaining, with a wry sense of humor and right-on-target reflections on humanity.
Your only job as a reader is to suspend disbelief, fasten your seat belt, and go along for a rollicking romp through the nature of death, reality, and the meaning of life. But if you can wrap your head around concepts like the Angel of Death appearing in the form of a plate of bacon and eggs; dogs that talk; people that can understand talking dogs; fictional animals that look like earless dogs that possess enormous powers; oh, and of course, ghosts; you'll be glad you did so... because this is a novel that will have you thinking long after the final page has been turned.
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