The Book of Names

Tuesday, January 12, 2010
What do Christopher Paolini, Madeline L'Engle and today's author all have in common? They all focus on identity being centered around names. Each one of them has this unique emphasis on "naming" and "finding true names". To know who someone or something truly is, you must know their name, their real, true name. This is what their books teach. D. Barkley Briggs is one of these.

#1 - The Book of Names by D. Barkley Briggs, NavPress, 2008
The Book of Names: A Novel (Legends of Karac Tor) 
Genre: Fantasy/Alternate Reality/Adventure
Target Audience: Boys 14-19
Subject: Identity, Identity in Christ, How to deal with pain and despair
Summary: Mom is dead. Life will never be the same again. It will never again contain peace and joy. That's the general mindset of Hadyn Barlow. His dad is making him hack through the branches of the briar patch, huge briar patch on their farm. Then comes the Call. Brought by a raven from another world, the Call comes to him. As he heeds it, his younger brother Ewan secretly follows. Soon they find themselves in Karac Tor, a land of tragedy, a land where identities are being stolen. Through making the most of pain and despair, Nemisa is raising an army of the nameless, those who have ceased to exist. She's convinced them that names hold meaning and that just holds pain and despair. The solution is to be free of all pain by freeing yourself of your identity. As you can imagine, she's not pleased with the Barlow brothers' interfering. Can she cause them to join the army of the nameless or merely destroy them? Or can their gifts overpower her despair?
Notes: This book is amazing! D. Barkley Briggs is not the first to come up with the concept of naming and it's value. Madeline L'Engle is quoted as saying: “all the animals, fish, fowl and land beasts had to be named in order to be. And we cannot name ourselves alone. Before we can love each other, before we can dialogue, each one of us has to be named by the other and we have to name in return. …When we respond to our names or call someone else by name, it is already the beginning of a community expressing the image of God. To call someone by name is an act of prayer. We may abuse our names, and our prayer but without names we are not human” (“And It Was Good” pg. 60-61). Then along came Christopher Paolini and the idea that everything had a "true name" and that by learning that "true name" you could control it.
D. Barkley Briggs runs with the same concept:
"Everything, living and dead has a name. We use the names to help us make sense of the world, to separate and identify. Rocks, birds, you, me. Common names are easy... and forgiving. A form of grace. I know you as Hadyn and you know me as Sorge. Outlander. Elder. Boy. Man. All these words start the process of knowing. They are useful. But deeper still lies our true name." "Like a secret?" "In a way. We all yearn to know and be known. It goes to our core. Most true names have been forgotten. Only the wise know them now, and only a few at that. To know a name is to know a thing for what it truly is, not what it appears to be. It is essence, connection, vitality, the difference between surrender and mastery."
And here's a look at the negative side of it:
"What does love give?" "Love names us," Shameface said bitterly. "It gives identity" "And where does identity lead?" asked the witch. "To foolish hopes." "Why is hope foolish?{ "Because it is the soil of dreams." "And what do dreams cause?" "Shame." "Because?" "Because the weight of dreams always collapses. Love is faithless when tested. It cannot be fulfilled. It promises what cannot be achieved. It remembers wrongs. Love must be earned. it is never given." (the exchange goes on discussing how the speaker has gained nothing despite working hard for love. Then the witch continues:) Be a slave to no man, no woman, only yourself. Serve no one but your own desires. When you do this, when nobody matters to you, you will matter to nobody. Your nothingness will be complete. Since they cannot own what doesn't exist, you will finally, truly be free. This is the gift I offer."
Recommendation Scale: 5
Reviewer: J:-)mi


Unknown said...

Please add my new release, Angela 1: Starting Over to your list. To find out more, please click on my name and follow the link to my website. Thanks!

J:-)mi said...

Hi David!
Thanks for reading my blog. I'd enjoy adding your book, it looks interesting, but I would need to read it first and made sure it fits in with what I'm trying to create. If you'd like to send me a copy to read, give me an e-mail address I can send my address to.

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