I received a note from Open Road Media, the publisher of an electronic edition of James Hilton’s Lost Horizon. Noticing that I was reading the book’s print edition, they suggested that I might consider their new electronic version, just out.
Of course: I’d prefer an e-book to a print copy, as they’re easier to store, often in several devices at once, and are a sound conservation practice, too.
A copy from Amazon is available online. (I neither charge nor accept promotional items for anything at FREE WHITEWATER. These remarks are those of a reader like anyone else.)
The Open Road Media edition is sparkling – properly formatted and easy to read on a computer, smartphone, iPad, or Kindle. (I’ve tried it on all these devices). Easily recommended.
It’s common with a publisher’s message like this to receive a second question, about some topic in the book. In this case: What the idea of Shangri-La means to me.
I’d suppose that Hilton’s Shangri-La captivates readers initially as a place of near agelessness, a version of a fountain of youth story. That’s understandable, of course: concerns over aging and mortality are common enough.
Yet, the Shangri-La of the story is not a simply a place of near-agelessness. It’s a place with a confident way of life, as Chang, a representative of the lamasery, explains:
We rule with moderate strictness, and in return are satisfied with moderate obedience. And I think that I can claim that our people are moderately sober, moderately chaste, and moderately honest.
Chang knows his way and his mind – he’s confident, even when peppered with skeptical questions. It’s not the place, but the state of mind, that matters most. One lives well if one lives clearly, confidently.
Often one sees in a place what one believes one will see. Yet, I cannot avoid thinking that Shangri-La is about believing deep within oneself in, and of, something. Clarity and confidence in the face of the harsh natural conditions beyond the valley, or the political violence and disorder that looms in the world outside.
Shangri-La isn’t compelling because its residents live longer; it’s compelling because its residents live soundly and confidently. From that, many things are possible, including an enduring, everlasting community.