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The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness: A True Story Paperback – September 2, 2005
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I really enjoyed this book. It was not a long read - maybe a 2-3 day read. It was interesting.
The format was this story of Joel Ben Izzy and his story as a story teller who lost his voice. Sprinkled through out this story though are other stories that he uses to help drive the lessons he's learning home to the reader.
There is so much to say about this story and so much to love. I will end with just saying it has a place on my favorites book shelf and I have bought several copies for friends now.
But - as they say on TV - "there is more!" ben Izzy is terrifically funny and self-deprecating, and at the same time moving and poignant. Especially, note the story of his father, the promising young violin player, who contorted with arthritis over the years and never found a successful calling. There is a kind of 'laugh til you cry' quality in this book, as in some of the greatest theater and novels. To be able to capture this delicate and rare balance is - well - genius. I yearn for more of this in my life.
OK. I have two small observations/questions for readers and the author: (1) is failure REALLY better than success (and likely to make you happier) given that you were a very happy story teller until you lost your voice? (2) Your relationship with Lenny, your mentor, seemed at times a little farcical, and his words of wisdom to you did not always sound like much more than gibberish. This relationship just didn't have the same ring of authenticity as your others, and this is strange because he was supposedly a key figure in your life.
Bottom line: I have been inspired by this book. I see everything as story now, including my own writing. I think Joel ben Izzy has written a book that can transform lives and make the world a better, funnier, more tender place. I have bought five copies for Christmas presents this year. If you know friends who have lost something important, and are grieving or struggling, this would be a particularly helpful gift.
The book is first and foremost a beautiful and beautifully told story, interwoven with very short, very colorful stories from around the world -- the kinds of little tales that reshape our perspective. Through this tale of a story teller, moreover, I found examples, and advice, and questions that were relevant and helpful to me and my ongoing search.
Among its many insights, one I found particularly compelling was the notion that, whatever trials, suffering, or loss we may be experiencing in our lives, we only increase the pain by resisting the story we are in. (It makes complete sense when you read the book.)