How weird is this? Right in the middle of walking to meet a friend for coffee a book title popped into my head. James Hilton’s Lost Horizon.
Out of nowhere. Why? That’s my question to you.
I first read Lost Horizon back in grade school. Don’t make me tell you how long ago that was. In those days, we were given a required reading list at the very beginning of the school year. And each time we finished a book we had to hand in a review. All the books were available at the school library.
From the instant I first learned to read I loved books. Always had my nose in one. Even before I could read I loved stories and I nagged my poor parents endlessly. Before I could talk I’d pick up one of my dog-eared favourites and bring it over to whichever one of them was around. And, as soon as I could communicate verbally, the same four words came out of my mouth incessantly: “Read me a story, read me a story, read me a story.” They had the patience of saints, let me tell you.
Anyway, the required reading list was the best part of school for me. It was supposed to take you the entire school year to complete, but I’d usually motored through it well before Christmas break and always went and asked the teacher for more. She didn’t always have “appropriate books” for my age and I’d get really frustrated.
That’s when I’d rummage through my parents’ bookcase and also my aunt’s, who was a voracious reader like I was. It was thanks to her I read Lady Chatterly’s Lover when I was about 11 years old, not that she knew I’d found it, not that she would necessarily have stopped me if she had. She and I used to have wonderful conversations about the books we’d read. My first book club. Who knew?
Back to Lost Horizon. I don’t know what it was about this book that so resonated with me. I fell instantly in love with it, and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished it. I know I drove my mother insane because I’d pick it up the minute I got home from school, I’d bring it to meals with me and I stayed up far too late at night reading. I thought because my door was closed I was getting away with it. Not. She could see the light through the crack at the bottom of the door and would knock every 15 minutes, insisting I go to sleep.
Ha! No, it didn’t work. What a brat I was!
Over the years I figure I’ve re-read that book maybe 20, 30 times. Which in itself is more than a little strange, although having said that, I re-read books all the time; and re-watch movies too. But this one I know so well I could probably recite it from memory.
Among other things, this is a story about finding inner peace, love, a sense of purpose and, the secret to living for hundreds of years. Where? In a magical, mystical paradise high in the mountains of Tibet. Shangri-La, a fictional location but, according to Wikipedia, one that was inspired in part by the Tibetan borderlands.
I’m a dreamer, always have been. I love everything about Shangri-La and I think in some ways I’ve been searching for it my whole life. Before you tell me that “Shangri-La is not a place, it’s a state of mind, of being and it lives in all of us” scroll up and look at the photo. That’s a real monastery in Tibet. Tell me you wouldn’t want to be there, right now. Maybe I should plan a trip??
What a respite it would be from this angry, turbulent, ugly, unhappy, tortured, stressed-out world we seem to find ourselves in right now. Maybe that’s why the book popped into my head the other day. I’m unconsciously looking for an escape from it all.
So I’ve decided to give myself permission to take a couple of days off from writing my own book to re-read Lost Horizon for the umpteenth time.
Did you know, by the way, that there are two film versions, one made by Frank Capra in 1937 and another by Charles Jarrot, in 1973? I’ve haven’t seen either, and don’t particularly want to. I’d much rather be transported to Shangri-La through the pictures James Hilton created with words and my own imagination.