“Authors are often asked why they do what they do. Often by themselves, as they sit wondering why they didn’t become corporate lawyers or dentists or arms dealers. Why do we choose this strange profession that would rank right below the vocational do-gooder in a list of the least-likely-to-bring-success occupations in the world? I can’t speak for my colleagues, but as far as I am concerned, I write because I really have no other choice. This is what I do. This is what I am.” (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)
Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the best writer on earth. For me, at least, but it’s my blog, so I can say it all I want: Carlos Ruiz Zafon is the Best Writer on Earth. I tripped over him, thanks to Jake’s mom, who was the first to tell us about Shadow of the Wind and how we just had to read it. Jake read Shadow of the Wind first, and for night after night, I had to put up with him saying, “What the hell? … No! It can’t be! … <insert fulfilled sigh here> I just read the most amazing passage …” And it went on and on, because when you read Ruiz Zafon, you have to make these noises. His writing is so visceral; his descriptions, so beautiful, that you just have to sit back, close your eyes, and picture the Barcelona this man so effortlessly paints in the pages.
About Shadow of the Wind: “Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets—an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.”
Okay, the marketing copy could be better, which is why I was slow to start this 487-page monster (it had little print—I mean, really little). Once I started it, though, I couldn’t stop. I was addicted. I ate up every word, like a starving kid eating grilled cheese. In fact—and I’m sure this was not Ruiz Zafon’s intention—I almost wanted to give up writing altogether, because I realized: I will never be as good as Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Arguably, no one will ever be as good as him. As I said, though, it was not his intention to make me feel bad about my own ability. No, Ruiz Zafon loves books, and he wants people to read them and worship them. In many ways, I believe Ruiz Zafon believes that books have souls.
A quote from Shadow of the Wind: “Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return.”
Shadow of the Wind will always be a part of me. As will Ruiz Zafon’s most recent book, The Angel’s Game, which I obviously bought as soon as I finished Shadow of the Wind. About The Angel’s Game: “David Martin, a pulp fiction writer struggling to stay afloat, is holed up in an abandoned mansion in the heart of Barcelona, furiously tapping out story after story, becoming increasingly desperate and frustrated. When he is approached by a mysterious publisher offering a book deal that seems almost too good to be real, David leaps at the chance. But after he begins the work, he realized that there is a connection between his book and the shadows that surround his dilapidated home and that the publisher may be hiding a few troubling secrets of his own.”
I will say this: The Angel’s Game is much, much, MUCH creepier than Shadow of the Wind. After reading a particularly disturbing section, I was afraid to leave the safety of my bedroom to go to the bathroom. I just had a funny feeling that there was something bad in the darkness, and I haven’t had that feeling since I was a teenager reading Stephen King—King, who said of Shadow of the Wind, “One gorgeous read.”
Now, I don’t consider this entry a book review. Do you? Honestly, look back at what I’ve written. I’ve told you very little about these books, and it’s intentional. I can’t tell you about these books, because if I told you anything, I would surely give something away. I will leave you, knowing that Carlos Ruiz Zafon is truly the most talented writer in our sphere today. I will leave you knowing that you must read his books, because they give me hope for the intellect of the human world. So. What the hell are you doing just sitting there? Go to his website: http://www.carlosruizzafon.co.uk/. Order his books. NOW.