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Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
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Jonathan Livingston Seagull (original 1970; edition 2006)

by Richard Bach

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7,885127422 (3.62)109
Member:jmcdbooks
Title:Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Authors:Richard Bach
Info:Scribner (2006), Edition: Original, Paperback, 112 pages
Collections:Your library, Read
Rating:****
Tags:Mancave 2.2.R

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach (1970)

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English (109)  Italian (5)  Spanish (4)  French (2)  Lithuanian (1)  Norwegian (1)  Czech (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (126)
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Just didn't get this.

ETA - that four word review has gotten two likes. I wonder why. Maybe they're from folks who are glad to know they're not the only ones who rode that bandwagon back then? ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Jonathan Livingston Seagull
by Richard Bach
w/ photographs by Russell Munson
Avon, 1973
ISBN 0-380-14316-X (paperback), 127 pp.

Review date: April 2016

The story behind the story can sometimes be more interesting than the story itself, and to great extent that's true for Richard Bach's early 1970s bestseller, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Only 10,000 words or so in length, the story is said to have been written in a period of three hours—stretched out over eight years. Now nearly forgotten—or, perhaps, little remembered (in any case, nowhere near as popular), JLS was first published as a short story for $200 in the pages of Private Pilot magazine, and that's perhaps where it would have lingered forever in obscurity if not for the whims of the publishing world and the foresight (deemed folly at the time) of a single employee at Macmillan Publishing. In 1970, Jonathan Livingston Seagull was given birth in book form with no fanfare, no advertising, no real hope, it seems, from its corporate midwife, but by 1973, it had sold millions of copies and even spent half a year in the number one spot of the Times bestsellers list. It's one of those stories we love here in the ruggedly individualistic USA: the story of the underdog. Or, in this case, the underbird.

Despite its brevity, the story is divided into three parts. The first part, only 3,000 words or so in length, is, in my opinion, the best. It follows Jonathan Livingston Seagull through a brief period of his life, learning to fly ever higher and faster—and being cast out from his flock for all his efforts at self-improvement and enjoyment of life, but finding his personal happiness in it, learning not to worry about what others think, focusing less on the material world, and living a long life of contentment because of it. I feel that had the story been limited to that section alone . . . well, it wouldn't have been long enough for publication in trade-book format, but it would have been a more tight-knit, well-written, self-contained, inspirational piece. Alas, it continues.

Parts two and three go on to detail Jonathan's spiritual ascension through different planes of existence, achieving immortality and magical powers, basically through the power of positive thinking and the realization that all of the world and life itself is an illusion. Typical 1970s New Age stuff—and a bit surprising, honestly, for an author that wasn't a Baby Boomer but was actually born before World War II. Jonathan becomes something of a messiah figure, using his knowledge of the higher planes in an attempt to help all members of seagullkind attain their own perfection—although the author himself has disagreed with his character's choice and is personally of the opinion that one should selfishly focus only on one's own personal evolution, happiness, and freedom to the exclusion of others'—and the details of his life seem to exemplify his adherence to this philosophy. In any case, I think parts two and three could have been better, and had they been, I may have liked this story better as a whole.

But even worse than some of the story are some of the illustrations by aviation photographer Russell Munson. I read the Avon paperback version, which, in addition to the flocks of seagulls throughout the front and back matter, also contains numerous other black-and-white photographs. Those framing the sections aren't too bad, but the rest, placed throughout the narrative, often for pages at a time, distract from the flow of reading. Moreover, many of the photos are repetitive in nature, and many are also of poor quality, grainy, out of focus, too darkly printed, or simply ill-composed—certainly not among Munson's best artistic work.

Overall, Jonathan Livingston Seagull is mildly insightful, somewhat entertaining, and mostly memorable—readable variously as Christian, Buddhist, New Thought, or New Age allegory, or simply as an inspirational fable of finding one's true path—and Bach does show skill as a writer, but in the end, his mysticism (something to which I'm not in principle opposed) somehow hinders the tale. What seems to have the potential to have been a very good book is, in my opinion, just above average, and while I don't begrudge it its initial popularity, I can't say I fully understand why it was that wildly popular—although it's little surprise to me that said popularity has dwindled considerably in the decades since. And yet, it hasn't been totally forgotten: not only does it have something of a cult following, but its name sparks wide recognition among the annals of literary underdogs; it's the little book that could about the little bird that could.

——————————

Rating:

2½ stars: Better than average. Whereas many reviewers tend to be more generous, most works I rate receive two or three stars. At this rating, all my expectations have been met; there are few technical, conventional, or factual flaws, if any, and I found the work to be mildly entertaining and/or sufficiently informative, but it wouldn't be at the top of my list of recommendations. A 2½-star work is better than just "OK" but I wouldn't quite call it "good". Equivalent to a school grade of 'B-', or a little better than average. ( )
  tokidokizenzen | Apr 3, 2016 |
Very good, very interesting. I remember loving JLS's drive to push beyond seagull boundaries. ( )
  evamat72 | Mar 31, 2016 |
Richard Bach's "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" is a philosophical allegory, characterizing a seagull who became an outcast, because his perspective towards life was different than his flock. This quick read provides inspiration and gives precedence of individuality over social stigma. Its a tale of over coming peer-pressure, striving for perfection and finally giving it back to the society. The book reminded me of "The Old Man and the Sea" by Ernest Hemingway. But it lacked the gravity and impact that "The Old Man and the Sea" provided.

"Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight, how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston Seagull loved to fly. This kind of thinking, he found, is not the way to make one’s self popular with other birds.”

In this allegory, I like to see, Birds represent Humanity, Flying - Living, Eating - Existing. I would recommend this book to everyone. This book can be read within an hour. ( )
  mahadevan.n.iyer | Mar 7, 2016 |
Beautiful book. It's like a dream comes true. Absolutely must read. ( )
  Natalia_Sh | Jan 14, 2016 |
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» Add other authors (40 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Bachprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Munson, RussellPhotographersecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bean, TomCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kauppi, KaijaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paolini, Pier FrancescoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To the real Jonathan Seagull, who lives within us all
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It was morning, and the new sun sparkled gold across the ripples of a gentle sea.
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By sunup, Jonathan Gull was practicing again. From five thousand feet the fishing boats were specks in the flat blue water, Breakfast Flock was a faint cloud of dust motes, circling. He was alive, trembling ever so slightly with delight, proud that his fear was under control. Then without ceremony he hugged in his forewings, extended his short, angled wingtips, and plunged directly toward the sea. By the time he passed four thousand feet he had reached terminal velocity, the wind was a solid beating wall of sound against which he could move no faster. He was flying now straight down, at two hundred fourteen miles per hour. He swallowed, knowing that if his wings unfolded at that speed he’d be blown into a million tiny shreds of seagull. But the speed was power, and the speed was joy, and the speed was pure beauty. He began his pullout at a thousand feet, wingtips thudding and blurring in that gigantic wind, the boat and the crowd of gulls tilting and growing meteor-fast, directly in his path. He couldn’t stop; he didn’t know yet even how to turn at that speed. Collision would be instant death. And so he shut his eyes. It happened that morning, then, just after sunrise, that Jonathan Livingston Seagull fired directly through the center of Breakfast Flock, ticking off two hundred twelve miles per hour, eyes closed, in a great roaring shriek of wind and feathers. The Gull of Fortune smiled upon him this once, and no one was killed. By the time he had pulled his beak straight up into the sky he was still scorching along at a hundred and sixty miles per hour. When he had slowed to twenty and stretched his wings again at last, the boat was a crumb on the sea, four thousand feet below.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0743278909, Paperback)

"Most gulls don't bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight--how to get from shore to food and back again," writes author Richard Bach in this allegory about a unique bird named Jonathan Livingston Seagull. "For most gulls it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull, though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight." Flight is indeed the metaphor that makes the story soar. Ultimately this is a fable about the importance of seeking a higher purpose in life, even if your flock, tribe, or neighborhood finds your ambition threatening. (At one point our beloved gull is even banished from his flock.) By not compromising his higher vision, Jonathan gets the ultimate payoff: transcendence. Ultimately, he learns the meaning of love and kindness. The dreamy seagull photographs by Russell Munson provide just the right illustrations--although the overall packaging does seem a bit dated (keep in mind that it was first published in 1970). Nonetheless, this is a spirituality classic, and an especially engaging parable for adolescents. --Gail Hudson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:36 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

An unusual seagull becomes an outcast from his flock because of his search for a higher purpose in life and his quest for more freedom.

(summary from another edition)

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