If you are looking for a musical and enchanting book filled with a young boy and his mother (not Stephen King’s Talisman) and with a few baddie characters and a lot of Jive and music playing, look no further than Dean Koontz’ The City.
As everyone knows, you can find a lot of colourful characters in a city and in the same way, you find a wide arrray in Dean Koontz’s book. My favourite ones were the male father-figures to the young boy, replacing the scumbag who calls himself as his natural dad, Grandpa Teddy and Mr. Yoshioka. They both offer valuable lessons of how to be a proper man and my heart warmed up every time one of the friends jumped in to help out.
The Bledsoes didn’t tolerate street talk or jive talk, or trash talk. Grandpa Teddy often said, “In the beginning was the word. Before all else, the word. So we speak as if words matter, because they do.” Anyway, my mom stood there, frowning down at me, but then her expression changed and all the hard edges sort of melted from her face. She dropped to her knees and put her arms around me and held me tight.
Koontz once again weaved his spell with his incredible writing. I was breathless and eager for more. When I had to put the book down, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and couldn’t wait until I could pick it back up and continue reading. I was sorry when The City ended because I wanted more!
Chapter 1 begins “My name is Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk. From as young as I can remember, I loved the city. Mine is a story of love reciprocated. It is the story of loss and hope and of the strangeness that lies just beneath the surface tension of daily life, a strangeness infinite fathoms in depth.” So begins Jonah’s tale, told of his days as an eight year old boy, from his 57 year old perspective.
If you are wondering where the title of the book comes from, it’s from Mrs. Pearl, a mysterious woman who carries the fate and lives of all the people in the city. And she needs the little boy’s help to stop a few bad people from commiting an attrocious crime – blowing up a bank and killing a lot of people (much like the events in Pico Mundo). I’m not sure how much experience Dean Koontz has with nine-year-old inner-city African-American males. Maybe some, maybe none. All I can say is, I’m a believer.
The city and the boy
“With the pendant in my pocket, it seemed that the cloud-free summer sky blazed bluer than ever. The day was warm, and this part of the city looked cleaner than the part that we’d come from. As noon approached, the trunk shadows shrank toward the trees, and the web of branch shadows spread equally in all directions as if spooled out by spiders. The sun spangled the big pond, and through the quivers of light, we watched scores of fat koi that swam there from spring through autumn before being moved to indoor aquariums. Mom bought a twenty-five-cent bag of bread cubes, and the fish ventured right up to us, fins wimpling, mouths working, and we fed them.
I felt the most unexpected tenderness toward those koi, because they were so beautiful and colorful and, I don’t know, like music made flesh. My mom kept pointing to this one and that one—how red, how orange, how yellow, how golden—and suddenly I couldn’t talk about them because my throat grew tight. I knew if I talked about them, my voice would tremble, and I might even tear up. I wondered what was wrong with me. They were just fish. Maybe I was turning sissy, but at least I fed the last of the bread to them without embarrassing myself.
Almost half a century later, I feel that same tenderness toward nearly everything that swims and flies and walks on all fours, and I’m not embarrassed. Creation moves and astonishes if you let it. When I realize how unlikely it is that anything at all should live on this world spun together from dust and hot gases, that creatures of almost infinite variety should at night look up at the stars, I know that it’s all more fragile than it appears, and I think maybe the only thing that keeps the Earth alive and turning is our love for it.
If names were any indication of a person’s destiny, then it’s no surprise that Jonah Ellington Basie Hines Eldridge Wilson Hampton Armstrong Kirk is a musical prodigy and can recreate a song after listening to it.
Set in the sixties, the book revolves slowly around music – bands, artists, styles and teh peaceful quality of a good song. As Jonah plays the piano, his mother sings with a most beautiful voice in different night clubs and as the owners’ attentions become more than she can handle, she moves her job to a new venue.
Without thinking to ask if my mom knew it, I ham-handed my way into it, and she sang along so beautifully that I sounded way better than I was. When I noticed that some of the gray-haired ladies had tears in their eyes, I understood for the first time why music matters so much, how it reminds us of who we are and where we came from, of all the good times and the sadness, too.
Music does not flow into his veins, it sparkles out! Neighbours come and jam, girls play odd instruments and different art lessons are uncovered. Have a look at Girl with the Red Hat * Vermeer’s story from The City by Dean Koontz (Excerpt) to learn something new about a painting.
Some have said that the story is boring and the pace is slow, I would say that the pace is just right, with proper crescendo notes. It’s a story about growing up and becoming more than a story about stopping a massive incident happening. It’s more about the relationships between people and friends and family than a thriller laced with explosives.
“One of the best things about growing up is that, if you can learn from experience, you come to the realization that two things matter more than anything else, truth with a lowercase t and Truth with an uppercase T. You have to tell the truth, demand the truth from others, recognize lies and refute them; you’ve got to see the world as it is, not as you want it to be, not as others who wish to dominate you might say it is. Embracing truth frees you from false expectations, fruitless pursuits, disappointment, pointless anger, envy, despair.
And the bigger kind of Truth, that life has meaning, is the surest source of happiness, because it allows you to recognize your true value and potential, encourages a humility that brings peace. Most important, the big-T Truth makes it possible for you to love others for who they are, always without consideration of what they might do for you, and only from such relationships arise those rare moments of pure joy that shine so bright in memory.”
You are never truly alone in a city.
“One of the many wonders of this world is that, if we allow it to happen, anyone newly met can all but overnight become a central figure in our lives, hardly less essential to us that air and water.”