Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Monday, May 01, 2006

One True Pure Thing

I’m not exactly sure at what point I began to hate Richard Bach. Bach, you might remember, is the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull and several other soul searching books. It’s probably pretty hard for Bach to get a fair shake these days owing primarily to the bad feelings that little bird still seems to be engendering. Although he claims to rarely walk out of movies, Roger Ebert reportedly walked out of Jonathan Livinston Seagull and came up with this classic quote: “The Little Engine That Could, is, by comparison, a work of some depth and ambition.” I doubt that even after thirty five years, few people have changed their assessment.

My latter day encounter with Bach occurred when I chanced upon a copy of another of his books, The Bridge Across Forever (William Morrow, 1984) in the Newark Public Library. The book has a pretty wretched looking cover and would by itself be enough to scare off a current potential reader in the event their local library hasn’t already discarded this title.

When I read the jacket copy though, I was hooked. Bridge is Bach’s recounting of his search for his soulmate. It quickly became evident that Bach is a pretty nice guy. Bach obviously didn’t write Seagull as a “get rich quick” scheme; he was evidently as surprised as everybody else that the book was so successful.

One of the most curious things about The Bridge Across Forever is that it describes the success (monetary and otherwise) that Jonathan Livingston Seagull created for Bach, but although he alludes to the book in numerous places, he never mentions the book by title. Quote the Seagull, nevermore seems to be the operating plan here (and a good plan it probably is).

Bach's search for his soulmate makes fascinating reading, and, likeable guy that he seems to be, you can’t help but cheer him on. Just when it seems that he’s probably never going to find her, he meets the actress Leslie Parrish. The reader pretty quickly senses that she’s the one, even if Bach himself isn’t quite so sure. It was at this point that I had to skip ahead and consult the internet to see how it all worked out. As it turned out, Bach did marry her but they were later divorced.

I was pretty much on neutral ground at this point but as the pages flew by, it was pretty easy to start to hate Bach. This man of many metaphysical musings seems to be positively lost in comparison to Ms Parrish, who if even half of the portrait he paints of her is true, is certainly as enlightened a human being as is possible. When Bach has to declare bankruptcy after his investments sour, it is Parrish who comes up with her own money to buy the copyrights on his backlist. You can’t help but feel that although Parrish might be his soulmate, she somehow deserves better.

Sadly, they are no longer together and Bach has evidently remarried again. I get the impression that she preferred a life of quiet and he a more active life. Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem to have created anything since then that is as interesting as The Bridge Across Tomorrow which I can certainly recommend. I think I'm going to have to ransack the tv archives to find some of Ms Parrish's guest appearances to see if any of that enlightenment is visible onscreen.


Blogger Bill said...

Did this make you want to read the Seagull again?

5:22 AM  

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