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Sleeping in Flame by Jonathan Carroll
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Sleeping in Flame (1988)

by Jonathan Carroll

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Answered Prayers Sextet (2)

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As I said in my review of [b:The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry|13227454|The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry|Rachel Joyce|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1335816092s/13227454.jpg|18156927] now and again we read the perfect book at the perfect time in our lives. [b:Sleeping in Flame|42145|Sleeping in Flame|Jonathan Carroll|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312065192s/42145.jpg|2789348] was a similar serendipitous choice, given to me by my boyfriend as an early present.

[a:Jonathan Carroll|23704|Jonathan Carroll|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1222900262p2/23704.jpg] more than any other author lures me into the worlds he creates. The mixture of wonder and cynicism in his work draws me deeper and deeper into the magical realism of Vienna and Prague, Rondua and half-recalled dreams. The more I visit the mind of the author the more I get inspired to continue my own writing.

[b:Sleeping in Flame|42145|Sleeping in Flame|Jonathan Carroll|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1312065192s/42145.jpg|2789348] touched me in a rather vital way, and reminded me of all the things I adore about [a:Jonathan Carroll|23704|Jonathan Carroll|http://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1222900262p2/23704.jpg] in the first place. His unusual use of language and his strange reality mixed and lodged within my brain until there was just one thing I wanted to say.

I know exactly who it is that I want to steal horses with. ( )
  Lepophagus | Jun 14, 2018 |
A modern fairy tale mixed with the metaphysical set firmly in the real world of the 1980s.

"Do you read mystery novels? Yes? It's the same with them. A fool can read ten pages and then turn to the end to see if the butler did it. But why ruin the whole process? The fun is trying to figure out the mystery yourself. If you get it right at the end then you really feel good and not a cheat."

Don't go in expecting The Land of Laughs. Lines between reality and fantasy are blurred in both stories, but Sleeping in Flame offers neither the whimsy nor the suspense found in The Land of Laughs.

Be prepared for some dated references and misogyny. Women are first introduced by their external appearance or behavior; men by their careers, accomplishments and social standing. For example, near the very end of the book, Walker is on a train in the first-class compartment by himself when "...a woman walked in. When I saw her I thought of a line my college roommate had once said when were gassing about women. 'Sometimes you see one on the street who's so beautiful you want to walk up to her, put your hand over her mouth, and just whisper 'Don't talk. Come with me.' You take her immediately to bed, never letting her say a word. Because no matter what she says, it's going to spoil that first beauty you saw in her. You know what I mean? Silent, she's perfect.' The woman across from me was that kind of perfect."

I'm still confused as to what was so special about Maris York, the woman Walker falls in love with at first sight. Other than being a former supermodel turned artist with the ability to read tarot cards, who is first introduced needing rescued from an abusive ex-lover, she seems like a regular woman to me. Yet every man she meets falls in love with her. Is it because, for her art, she builds LEGO cities then sells them for outrageous amounts of money?

Besides the way women are portrayed, there's an exchange between Walker and Elisabeth Benedikt about her son that seemed inaccurate to me. She asks Walker if he knows what being autistic is. He replies, "Schizophrenic?" To which Elisabeth responds, "More or less. Lillis lives in his own head." Of course, I'm no expert on either, but I have a relative with schizophrenia and he's very different from the autistic children and adults I've encountered.

Now let's get to the good stuff: the reason I enjoyed Sleeping in Flame...

"The only thing we can really know is what we're experiencing, or what we've already lived. Then we've got to study it like crazy till we understand."

It's revealed early on that Walker is an orphan. He was raised by the wonderful Easterling family, but he could never get over the fact that he was found as an infant in a dumpster by a homeless man. Soon after meeting Maris, Walker starts having strange experiences like seeing an accident before it happens and the appearance of a legendary sea creature. He also has vivid dreams in which everything he sees and does appears to have happened before. In an attempt to make sense of all the weirdness - magic, according to Maris - Walker goes to a shaman who wants to teach him how to fly and, slowly, Walker begins to unravel the mystery of his life.

Recommended to those seeking modern fairy-tale retellings who don't mind an ambiguous ending. For anyone who ever wondered what would've happened to the baby if the queen hadn't correctly named Rumpelstiltskin.

4 stars (but I don't see myself re-reading it in the next decade)

"They think you live and die and come back maybe ten or fifty or a hundred years from now. That's wrong. You do live and die and come back, but not always in the future. Know why? Because after a certain date, there isn't a future. There's an end to our time here.

The big reveal:

Walker is actually the thirty-first incarnation of Walter, the baby of the queen who guessed the name of Rumpelstiltskin. The twist is, she never did guess the little man's true name. He took the baby and fled the story realm and somehow crossed over to the real world. He raised Walter as his son and loved him with everything he was. But Walter grew up and fell in love with a woman. His father couldn't take that -- he wanted Walter to love him first and above all others. So he killed Walter and brought him back to life in an effort to let Walter fix his mistake (of betraying his father by growing up and loving a human).

But every time, Walter made the same mistake. He was killed and brought back thirty times. It's this life, the thirty-first, that Walter remembers all the others and his magic, and this time he refuses to let his beloved be harmed by his father. Once he's remembered his father's true name, which is the key to using magic (he says the name then the magic comes), he reincarnates the Wild sisters, Dortchen and Lisette, the original sources for the Grimms' version of the little man's tale. Turns out the Wild sisters made it up, basing it on a local human man. Breath was the true name of Rumpelstiltskin. Since they imagined him, created him, by making up a new ending they are able to erase him from existence.
( )
  flying_monkeys | Dec 29, 2016 |
starts off slow, but the characters are engrossing. plus, it has that rare thing - a supremely satisfying ending. ( )
  Darth-Heather | May 31, 2016 |
One of my all time favorite books, the first of Jonathan Carroll's books I ever read which started my love affair with him and fantastic realism. ( )
  JVP717 | Oct 21, 2013 |
When I was first striking out on my own to figure out what I liked to read, I stumbled over a Jonathan Carroll rec on ChickLit. I read From the Teeth of Angels and became enchanted. Over the years I kept an eye out for Carroll novels in used bookstores and on book swap sites, and eventually managed to snag Sleeping in Flame.

I guess I was expecting the same kind of book-fog to roll over me as I read this one, but it never happened. It's still got the good bits I remember from Carroll's writing, and the story is interesting and has that fairy-tale quality I love -- actually, it IS part fairy tale, flat-out.

There's something about the characters that I don't like, though. The way Carroll describes Maris, the hero's love interest, reminds me of the way another author describes women. Hemingway, maybe? I'm not sure. I didn't fall for the characters. Didn't actively dislike them, just couldn't connect.

And the ending, wow, I hate the openness of it. It feels like it's trying to be mysterious or thought-provoking but what it actually comes off as is half-assed. Maybe because everything else is explained relatively well? I get the intention, but it doesn't work for some reason. At least not for me.

I feel like I can stop chasing Jonathan Carroll around now. ( )
  karinnekarinne | Apr 3, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Carrollprimary authorall editionscalculated
McKean, DaveCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Odom, MelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679727779, Paperback)

Ricocheting between the haunted chic of Vienna and the mystical crassness of Los Angeles, between the world of desire and the landscape of dreams, Sleeping In Flame is a hypnotic literary, novel with irresistible elements of fantasy and magic.

It is the story of Walker Easterling, who saves a woman' life only to place her in infinitely greater danger by falling in love with her. It's the story of Maris York, an androgynous beauty who arouses incinerating passions in the around her. It is a novel populated by a shaman with a fondness for sandwiches, an autistic Adonis, and a tiny man as powerful and ravenously jealous as the God of the Old Testament.

Praised by writers ranging from Stanislaw Lam to Stephen King, Jonathan Carroll has made Sleeping In Flame a dizzying tour de force of tenderness and terror, realistic suspense and mythic imagination.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Walker Easterling is a retired actor turned successful screenwriter living in the Vienna of strong coffee, fascinating friends, and mysterious cafes. When he falls in love with Maris York, a beautiful artist who creates cities, his life becomes alive in fantastic and unsettling ways. As Walker's love for Maris grows, his life gets more and more bizarre - he discovers he can see things happening just before they happen, and at the same time feels an incredibly strong tug from his past - so a friend steers him to Venasque, an odd little man reputed to be a powerful shaman. Venasque helps Walker discover and unravel his many interconnected past lives, and it is soon clear that an unresolved conflict from these past lives has resurfaced, and now threatens to undo Walker and Maris's love."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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