Tuesday, July 28, 2009

No. 91: The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

I once dated this guy, Steve. The main thing I remember about him (other than the fact that he was built like a Greek statue) was that he was sweet and shy. We dated for a bit and then the Navy moved him to Florida for flight school and we lost touch.

A couple years later, I had a business meeting in San Diego that I absolutely had had had to attend in person (because my job back then was ridiculous and required me to be in, like, three places at once). To make this particular meeting, I would have had to fly there and back (from Washington DC) on the same day. Gentle Readers, same day flight in-and-outs are very expensive so the ticket was almost $3,000. I told my manager I'd be willing to spend the weekend in San Diego to reduce my airfare if I could stay someplace nice on the beach. He was all "Why are you even asking me?" so I booked myself in the lovely Hotel del Coronado and proceeded to set about unwinding all the stiff muscles in my back.

While unwinding, I took the Hotel's bike tour of the Island. Our group biked past a military installation and I asked the tour guide about it. When he informed me that it was the Naval Air Station, I knew (seriously I knew,) that Steve was on the island. I got back to the hotel, dialed information, asked for his listing in Coronado, and got connected. Conversation went something like this:
Me: "Steve?"
Steve: "Kim?"
Me: "Yeah."
Him: "You're at the Hotel del."
Me: "How do you know that?"
Him: "Caller ID. You hungry?"
Me: "Starved."
Him: "I just got Thai food delivered. I'll pick you up in front of the hotel in 5 minutes."
...and a lovely weekend with the hunky Steve ensued. The point of all this? Steve's favorite book was The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett, which I know because he made me read it.

The Pillars of the Earth is basically about a builder and a monk who collaborate to build a cathedral in England in the Middle Ages. It's pretty damn great! ...and complicated. ...and suspenseful. ...and long, (which you won't even notice. Trust me). ...and banned.

The reasons for its banning include graphic descriptions of sex and violence, particularly against women. A Fairfax County Virginia (and I thought we were getting along so well Virginia) School Board member who voted to restrict the book to 10th-12th grade students called the book's content "obscene and pervasively vulgar". It's been many years since I read it but I don't remember any pervasive vulgarity. It is fairly violent but that's historically accurate to medieval times. It's also fairly sexual but it was never intended to be read by children. That said, I think kids over 14 should be OK reading it.

Read it. It's great.

One late note: Steve, if you're reading this, thanks for the Thai food.

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