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Total Commitment & Tolerance for Adversity = A Dream Come True

By Peggy Morehouse

Imagine strolling down a city street and not smelling robust, spicy coffee brewing at the corner Starbucks or visiting Orlando without stopping by Disney World. If the two men who founded these establishments abandoned their adventure when the going got tough, rich dark coffee, jazzy music, and comfy chairs wouldn’t be around to offer a rest stop and the doors to the Magic Kingdom castle never would have opened. Walt Disney and  Howard Schultz embraced two of Matthew Walker’s elements discussed in Adventure in Everything: total commitment and tolerance for adversity.

Walker describes total commitment as, “The pursuit of an endeavor with flexibility about its execution, detachment from its results, and complete and total focus.” Tolerance for adversity is, “Your ability to work past adversity without succumbing to the distress and negativity that’s typically associated with it.” Whether your high endeavor adventure is taking a novel from idea to publication or turning your passion for baking into a profitable business, carving out time and overcoming obstacles are part of the game. Just read these snippets from two super-successful entrepreneurs.

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Howard Schultz:

In 1981, when Schultz was managing a sales force for Hammarplast, a Swedish kitchenware company, he noticed a small retailer in Seattle called Starbucks. Interested in knowing more about the business, Schultz flew to Seattle to investigate. He tasted a cup of Sumatra coffee, and by the third sip was hooked. Soon after, he began asking questions about coffees from different regions around the world, and his passion and vision for Starbucks began to take shape. It took Schultz a year to convince the three Starbucks owners to hire him. He had outlined his vision for them of how Starbucks could go national and create a brand synonymous with quality coffee. Just when he thought he had the owners convinced, they declined his offer, viewing him as too risky. Within 24-hours Schultz managed to change their minds and take a chance on him. The owners hired him as director of operations and marketing. “I have often wondered what would have happened if I had just accepted their decision,” Schultz says. “Most people, when turned down for a job, just go away.”

After a trip to Italy, where he visited coffeehouses overflowing with people and serving fancier coffee drinks made with espresso, Schultz realized Starbucks was missing the social connection Italians have with coffee. “The Italians had turned coffee into a symphony,” he says. “They understood the personal relationship people have with coffee, its mystery and romance.” Schultz thought his new vision for Starbucks could revolutionize the company. Once again, his bosses didn’t agree, viewing Starbucks as a retailer and not a restaurant or coffee shop, so Schultz quit and took his vision elsewhere. Taking another risk, in 1985, Schultz started Il Giornale, his own chain of coffee bars. With the success of his company, and by raising enough venture capital, Schultz bought Starbucks two years later and converted Il Giornale Coffee Houses into Starbucks Coffee Company. “It’s about seeing what other people don’t see, and pursuing that vision, no matter who tells you not to,” he says. Schultz learned the importance of determination. “So many times I have been told that it can’t be done. Again and again, I’ve had to use every ounce of perseverance to make it happen.” (Reference: http://www.success.com/article/from-the-corner-office-with-howard-Schultz

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Walt Disney:

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Disney formed his first animation company in Kansas City in 1921. He made a deal with a distribution company in New York, in which he would ship them his cartoons and get paid six months down the road. Flushed with success, he began to experiment with new storytelling techniques, his costs went up and the distributor went bankrupt. He was forced to dissolve his company, could not pay his rent and was surviving by eating dog food. This was just one of many setbacks for Disney. Others included being turned down by a production company for his treasured mouse, Mickey, because a large mouse on a screen would scare women. The Three Little Pigs was rejected because a story with only four characters wouldn’t hold people’s interest.

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The great majority will never obtain the fame and success of Disney or Schultz. Then again, most don’t have their persistence, and some aren’t interested. I know I’ve never had to eat dog food or pursue a job for over a year on any of my adventures. As I prepare my second novel for it’s first trip to the editor, I will keep persistence in the forefront of my mind. How committed am I to this high endeavor and how much adversity am I willing to tolerate in order to take it to publication? There isn’t a right or wrong answer to this question, and to be honest, I don’t know what mine is. I am certain that my writing journey is fascinating and I’m content to take one step at a time, even if that step leads in a reverse direction for a period of time.

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Author Diana Stevan Releases Her Debut Novel, A Cry From The Deep

By Peggy Morehouse

Congratulations to Diana Stevan on the release of her novel, A Cry From The Deep.

Available now on Amazon.com or order it through your favorite independent bookseller.

Available now on Amazon.com or order it through your favorite independent bookseller.

 

It’s such an accomplishment to take an idea and weave it into a published novel. Diana tells us about her author journey below:

  1. Where did you get your idea for A Cry From the Deep?

Diana:  A screenwriter friend of mine asked me to write a screenplay with him about a woman who dies in a shipwreck hundreds of years before, but is later connected to a woman in the present. Though we couldn’t come up with a story we could agree on, the idea of some kind of connection between two women from different centuries resonated with me, especially since I had been so enamored with a movie I saw as a child, one that had a similar idea. The movie was I’LL NEVER FORGET YOU with Tyrone Power and Anne Blyth. Tyrone Power is a scientist who ends up going back to the past, falling in love with a woman there, and then when he returns to the present, he meets someone who looks like her. So, when we abandoned the idea of working together, I started playing around with that notion and when I decided my protagonist was going to be an underwater photographer, the story took off.

 

  1. Tell us about when you first decided that writing was a vocation you wanted to pursue.

Diana:  In my early twenties. I was newly married, and perhaps all those years as an only child living with my grandmother and parents in small quarters gave me much to reflect on. I was essentially shy and an observer of life. I was living in Winnipeg at the time, and joined the Manitoba Authors Association. I attempted to write some short stories and managed to get a few city newspaper articles published, one on Fitness and the other on Travel. But writing took a back seat, when I returned to University to pursue my Master of Social Work degree and my attention to that and our children took center stage.

3.   How long did it take you to write A Cry From The Deep? What inspired you to begin this novel and take it to completion?

Would you believe fifteen years? That’s holding on to a dream a long time. It was a mammoth project as I had embarked on a story that required a lot of research. In the meantime, I published a poem, a  short story, wrote three screenplays (none produced) and co-produced three short films with my grandson, one of which was co-written by him and myself. And with family responsibilities, for my children, grandchildren and elderly mother and our love of travel, I had to grab time for writing when I could. But even with all that, the story kept calling me to finish. I must say, that my next novel, a historical fiction based on my grandmother’s life during WWI, in what is now Western Ukraine, is now complete and took less than two years to write.

 

  1. What frustrations did you encounter on your novel writing journey? How did you move past them?

My frustrations have always been about time. Unlike some authors who can seclude themselves and write without interruption, that wasn’t true in my case. But having said that, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t do anything different if I could go back, as I’ve had a rich family life. As for how did I move past my frustrations? I just kept plowing forward, one step at a time. Knowing I was getting closer to my goal, I was content. I’m also a member of a wonderful group of female writers in Campbell River, British Columbia. They have been a tremendous support and inspiration to me. We’ve helped one another become better writers. But there’s also an understanding that we all need this support to nurture our creative juices. And my dear husband, Robert, helped tremendously, as he was always willing to hear yet another addition to my story, and for that I’ll always be thankful.

 

  1. What type of publisher are you using? How did you make that decision?

I’m using CreateSpace. It wasn’t an easy decision. For awhile, I pitched my novel to quite a few agents, and had some requests for a full manuscript, but no one bit. As I’ve had agents before for my screenplays, I wasn’t sure if it was all about the writing, or something else with the publishing industry in flux. Also, I had the experience of watching a former member of our writing group get a top agent and a fabulous publisher, but she still had to wait three years before her book came out. As my book has taken forever to write, I didn’t want to wait any longer, so I took matters into my own hands. And because of all the glowing reports of the self-publishing process and product from fellow writers about CreateSpace, it seemed that going indie with me at the steering wheel was the right thing to do.

 

  1. Can you tell us about some of the resources you used to help you with the craft of your novel writing?

Diana:  There have been many. I attended the Surrey International Conference of Writers three times, where I got invaluable tips on the craft of novel writing. At one of them, I took a Master Workshop with Donald Maass  and afterwards, used his book, Writing The Breakout Novel. We’re also all living in a time, when the internet provides valuable notes and advice on novel writing.  One blog I favor is Writer Unboxed http://writerunboxed.com/about/ And though screenplay writing is different from novel writing, many of the principles are the same. So, I credit the many screenwriting workshops I’ve taken over the years as some of the resources I’ve used to develop my writing craft. And of course, my writers’ group, which I’ve mentioned above.

 

  1. Do you have any word of wisdom for people considering writing a novel or a memoir?

Read, read, read. The more you read, the more you understand what goes into a novel or a memoir. Also, take classes, look for info. on- line if you get stuck, and join a writers’ critique group. Being a member of one that provides constructive criticism is invaluable.

About the author: 

Diana Stevan likes to joke that she’s a Jill of all trades as she’s not only worked as a clinical social worker, but also as a teacher, librarian, professional model, professional actress and a sports writer-broadcaster for CBC television. She’s published fitness and travel articles for newspapers, poetry in the U.K. journal, Dreamcatcher, and a short story in Escape, an anthology. Her debut novel, A Cry From The Deep, a romantic mystery/adventure, is coming out on October 15, 2014.  A mother of two and a grandmother of three, Diana lives with her husband Robert on Vancouver Island, in beautiful British Columbia. You can visit her at http://www.dianastevan.com

Diana Steven

Diana Stevan

 

About A Cry From the Deep:

When Catherine Fitzgerald, an underwater photographer, buys an antique Claddagh ring, she is troubled by nightmares that set her on a path to fulfill a promise of love made centuries before. As she begins to unravel the mystery of the woman who haunts her dreams, she has to come to grips with her own struggle to find true love. Set in Provence, Manhattan, and Ireland, this romantic mystery also takes place in the deep, where the lure of buried treasure tempts salvagers to break the law.

http://www.dianastevan.com/

https://www.facebook.com/dianastevan.author

Amazon Link:   http://www.amazon.com/A-Cry-From-The-Deep/dp/1497536634/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1413402156&sr=8-3&keywords=a+cry+from+the+deep

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Jamaica Kincaid: “I wanted to be someone free of the chains of history,…”

By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

Kincaid2On October 2, 2014, I attended Jamaica Kincaid’s lecture and reading at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.  It was more than an author presentation, as the evening began with the conferring of Kincaid’s Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Skidmore College by President Phillip Glotzbach.

Kincaid has written a wide range of books, including novels, memoirs and polemical works, such as Annie John, Lucy, At The Bottom of the River, Autobiography of My Mother, Mr. Potter, and A Small Place.  In 2013, she published See Now Then, which critics have compared to Kincaid’s own life. The novel’s wife and mother character, Mrs. Sweet, resembles Kincaid as an avid gardener whose marriage to a composer ends in divorce. Kincaid, however, has said that critics who classify the novel as a masked autobiography are diminishing her work.

The Washington Post has written, “Kincaid is not easy reading. Not much that is worthwhile in literature is. But she is fierce and true. Certainly, that is so of ‘See Now Then.’ After 10 years of inexplicable fictional silence, she comes forth with a mighty roar.”

Known for her angry tone, Kincaid has been both commended and criticized for her rage and subject matter.  She has stated that she feels it is her “duty to make see then noweveryone a little less happy.”

At the time of Kincaid’s presentation, I had just worked my way through the first twenty pages of See Now Then.  I only knew the author from what I had read, “unabashed rage” (Ms. Magazine), “scouringly vivid prose” (New York Times Book Review), “depressing and nihilistic” (Mother Jones), and I worried that maybe I should hold onto my seat when she took the podium.  I guess I expected gale force words that would blow my curly hairdo straight.  But that never happened.

Kincaid spoke softly and apparently, from her heart.  She displayed a beautiful sense of humor, bringing the audience to long rounds of laughter as she spoke of her life and her writing with  dashes of wit and humility. She stood at the microphone wearing her newly conferred doctoral robe and hood and with a gentle voice told us,

“Professor Boyers said such wonderful things about me, that I am stunned by them, and really just want to go home and play them over and over again, because I am very vain…..I think I’m supposed to tell you something inspirational, but I have nothing to say.” 

But, oh yes, she did. Kincaid discussed her writing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“I didn’t think anyone would read anything I had to say, but I didn’t allow that to stop me from writing.”

She stated that she had a certain idea about writing that she almost never talks about.

annie john “…that my own writing has no real beginning or real end because I think I’m entering into something that’s ongoing… that’s before me, and after me, and I’ve entered into it, this conversation, this writing.”

“I always wanted to be a writer… I wanted to be someone free of the chains of history,… chains of what I had been told are my limitations…But it’s not possible…however, just because something isn’t possible…you know it won’t work out… the point is to do it, and you already know you will fail, but you don’t know what the experience will be like. And it’s not even that you fail … because the issue isn’t to fail… it’s already a given.” 

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Kincaid responded to a question concerning categorizing her fiction and nonfiction.

“When I’m writing nonfiction, I never make anything up, but when I’m writing fiction, it’s not to be trusted at all… nonfiction is very factual, and I sometimes use the same language, because for me it’s a continuum…

These categories are useful to somebody, but not useful to me …because in the case of many people like me, the thing you call,…history, is not history at all, it’s ongoing, so what do you do with it?…the categories …seem to be more useful to people in another position than my goal…

 History is an ongoing event….what happened in the past still propels my identity…my reality, so the categories of fiction and nonfiction…not terribly useful for me.”

Kincaid responded to a question about legacy.

“I don’t think about that, legacy, the future, writing….think of the influence of a book like the Bible…so deep in meaning…. think of writing as Paul’s letters to the Corinthians.  How many Corinthians read Paul’s letter?… absolutely none… Where are the Corinthians? … but there are Paul’s letters….Pretend that you’re Paul and you’re writing to vanishing people… but that your writing will persist…It’s likely not to be true…but just because you know you’re going to die, doesn’t mean you should kill yourself right now…..”

jamaica_kincaidThank you, Jamaica Kincaid for your honest wisdom.

Thanks also to Skidmore College for opening this and other valuable presentations to the public.

A native of Antigua in the West Indies, Kincaid was discovered by the New Yorker magazine as a very young woman.  She is a professor at Harvard University and a long-time visiting writer each July at Skidmore’s New York State Summer Writers Institute.

To learn more about Jamaica Kincaid and her publications:

http://us.macmillan.com/seenowthen/jamaicakincaid

http://english.fas.harvard.edu/faculty/kincaid/

http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst/webpages4/archives/timesjk.html


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J.K. Rowling Continues to Seek New Writing Adventures

By Peggy Morehouse

J.K. Rowling first thought of the idea for Harry Potter while riding on a train from Manchester to London in 1990. When she returned home, she started plotting the series and five years later she began to write the eminent novel. In June 1997 Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone was published. In between 1990 and 1997, J.K. Rowling moved to Portugal then to Edinburgh. She married, gave birth to her daughter, and divorced. She taught at a college and eventually found herself on welfare. All the while she kept working on Harry Potter. Did she have a crystal ball that predicted her phenomenal success if she persevered? Or did she continue to plug away on her novel, uncertain of the outcome, element two in Adventure in Everything by Matthew Walker?

Uncertainty ruled. The Christopher Little Literary Agency agreed to represent Rowling in her quest to find a publisher. Harry Potter was submitted to twelve publishing houses, all of which rejected the manuscript. A year later she was finally given the green light and a £1500 advance by editor Barry Cunningham from Bloomsbury, a small British publishing house in London. On her website she says that during this period of ambiguity she waited and prayed.

We all know how the gifted author’s journey ended. She made it to the top of the book world’s version of Mount Everest.

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Just like a world-class mountaineer who forges on to summit the highest peak of each continent, Rowling created six more novels in the Harry Potter series. She reached the pinnacle of a dream and earned all the fame, respect, and riches any human being could ever hope for.

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We’ve all probably thought about what we would do if we found a pot of gold at the end of our adventure?

Maybe I’d: rent a yacht in the Caribbean and invite friends to a rockin’ New Year’s Eve party; advocate to keep the arts in education by donating my time and whopper checks; kick back with a glass of French Beaujolais on the porch of my new house in the Alps; turn Katie Couric and Oprah down for interviews because, damn it, I just don’t feel like answering questions anymore; never clean a toilet bowl or scour off the crud at the back of the refrigerator again. Sounds pretty good to me.

What did J.K. Rowling do?

Made some purchases: “My favorite material thing is our house in the north of Scotland, where it is very peaceful and we have a lot of fun with family and friends. Probably the very best thing my earnings have given me, though, is absence of worry. I have not forgotten what it feels like to worry whether you’ll have enough money to pay the bills. Not to have to think about that any more is the biggest luxury in the world.” (from her website)

Gave generously to charity: Her international children’s charity, Lumos, has succeeded in helping move over 12,000 European children out of institutions and into loving homes.

Paid Taxes: “I chose to remain a domiciled taxpayer for a couple of reasons. The main one was that I wanted my children to grow up where I grew up, to have proper roots in a culture as old and magnificent as Britain’s…A second reason, however, was that I am indebted to the British welfare state….When my life hit rock bottom, that safety net…was there to break the fall.”

Started Over: She switched her genre to adult fiction, wrote Cuckoo’s Calling, and used the pen name, Robert Galbraith, explaining, “Being Robert Galbraith has been such a liberating experience. It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation, and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name.”

Did J.K. Rowling miss the adventure of writing a novel that no longer held the element of an uncertain outcome? Author Matthew Walker says, “An end result that’s unknown at the outset of a pursuit is filled with rewarding possibilities.”

I obviously can’t call Rowling and ask her, but I’m speculating that it was one reason for her decision. Publishing had become predictable. Just slap her name on the cover of any book and an instant bestseller was born.

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With a new genre and an unknown name, she once again was able to embark on a writing adventure. Shortly after its release, however, someone leaked the truth and the author was exposed. Rowling responded to the unveiling, “To say that I am disappointed is an understatement.”

The leak led to massive sales. Before the story broke, The Cuckoo’s Calling had sold only 1,500 copies; afterwards, it shot to the top of Amazon’s best seller list. Someone had stolen Rowling’s uncertain outcome from her, and even though she sold plenty of books as a result, the intrigue of her journey ended.

On our quest to fulfill a dream, we may  reach the mountain top, land a publishing deal, unlock the door of a new business. Goal met. The adventure is over. Soon after, we just might find ourselves asking, What’s next?

J.K. Rowling is currently writing a screenplay instead of a novel. How will it turn out? It’s uncertain, but I have a feeling she’s enjoying the adventure.

“When we decide to engage in uncertain pursuits, we discover a zest and enthusiasm that drives us to new heights.” ~ Matthew Walker

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The Elegance of Choice

hedgehog (1)By SUSANNE MARIE POULETTE

 

I recently found a hidden treasure inside a book.  I almost missed it.  I almost tossed it aside, undiscovered.

This raises some questions: Why did I choose this book to read in the first place?  Why did I reject it after the first chapter, and why did I pick it back up a few weeks later?  And what do YOU do if you find yourself slogging through chapter one, and teetering somewhere between a deep coma and convulsions by chapter two?

Somewhere in the circuitous caverns of my brain, lies an imperative that I should always finish reading and never abandon a book.  It must have been some teacher, early on, who added an Eighth to the Seven Deadly Sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony, and tome desertion.  After reaching adulthood, and okay, I’ll admit it—my red hat, purple dress years, I’ve become more self-assertive and less concerned about the shoulds and shouldn’ts of convention.

How about you?  How do you select your next book, and what happens if you think it’s a waste of your time?  Do you have the Eighth Deadly Sin Rule holding the reigns on your reading habits? There may be some valuable lessons here for readers, in making their book choices, and for writers, from a marketing perspective.

Let’s begin with choices:  First, how do you choose the next book that you’ll buy or borrow, and then actually read?  I conducted an unscientific survey of friends, family, and internet comments. I admit that none of these reasons affected my choice for reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.  I picked up this book because I’m reading as much as I can of the same genre as my novel, which is fiction with a child protagonist. Some commonalities from my little research project:

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Secondly, what happens if you don’t want to finish the book? Do you soldier on?

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Or do you commit the Eighth Deadly Sin?

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In my case, I committed the Eighth Sin because I initially stopped reading The Elegance of the Hedgehog because it seemed tedious, but later I atoned.  What inspired me to go back and pick it up again?  Two reasons: I read intriguing and sometimes startling reviews of the book and wondered what I was missing.  I also wanted to know what caused such strong polar opposite opinions:

 Elegance?

elegance “One of the best books I have read in the past 12 months…thought provoking and amusing.” 

 “If you are an artist, a thinker, someone who longs for more, an aestheticist, a dreamer, a seeker…. then read this book. It made me laugh and cry in a way that only a well crafted, well loved, well written book can.”

 “This book is beautiful for its underlying truth: we are all worthy of love, love that will surely be given, if we will but believe we are worthy.”

 “The Elegance of the Hedgehog is an absolutely breathtaking book. Just stunning. Light and airy, yet penetrating, with bits of soft brilliance on every page. My goodness, what an astonishing book.”

Hedgehog?

hedgehog“It deserves is to be methodically shredded page by page and subsequently dissolved, in its entirety, in a pool of ammonia.”

“When finally a semblance of plot surfaces, it is so banal that you want to cry.”

“Even if I were to overlook the self-obsessed, banal philosophical discourses that dominate this novel, I would still hate ‘Elegance of the Hedgehog,’ mainly because its characters are contrived and unbelievable.”

Okay, so much for review excerpts. What did I think of it?

I love this book and I’m grateful that I gave it a reprieve. Its philosophy could easily deter anyone whose interests don’t usually lie there, but the rewards for persevering are many.  Yes, it’s a social commentary, an extraordinary social satire blended with art and philosophy and humor, expressed through the lives of two outsiders, each deceptively erudite and yet deeply aware of life’s everyday simple pleasures.   Twelve-year old Paloma sums up the essence for me:

“…Just by observing the adults around me I understood very early on that life goes by in no time at all, yet they’re always in such a hurry, so stressed out by deadlines, so eager for now that they needn’t think about tomorrow…But if you dread tomorrow, it’s because you don’t know how to build the present, and when you don’t know how to build the present, you tell yourself you can deal with it tomorrow, and it’s a lost cause anyway because tomorrow always ends up becoming today…

…We have to live with the certainty that we’ll get old …And tell ourselves that it’s now that matters: to build something, now, at any price, using all our strength. …and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, and make every day undying.  Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity.

That’s what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people.”

I can understand why Parisian psychotherapist Maude Julien prescribes this bestselling novel to her patients. “Yes, I am prescribing it, and I do mean prescribing. This book can do a lot of good,” affirms Julien, the fifteenth arrondissement’s leading psychologist. “The novel is a real toolbox that one can look into to resolve one’s problems.”  (L’express, France, February 7, 2008)

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Yes, I recommend this book, no matter how you usually select your reads or how you feel about finishing a book.  If you can enjoy or tolerate a dose of rich philosophy, and if you have a fat dictionary handy to look up all the long words, you just might appreciate Muriel Barbery’s  The Elegance of the Hedgehog as I do.  The choice is yours: to pick it up or put it down.  If you do read it, we’d love to know how you feel about the book.