by Alison Flood)
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, the adventurous bird who launched a million spiritual journeys in the 1970s, has flown back into view.
His creator, Richard Bach, sold millions of copies of the short fable about a seagull – "no ordinary bird" – when it was published in 1970.
He has now touched on Jonathan again, both in a just-published followup to his 1977 spiritual memoir Illusions written after he nearly died in a plane crash in 2012, and in a new edition of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, out later this week and including "the never-before-published Part Four".
Bach said he never intended to write Illusions II, which has just been released as a Kindle Single and is his first comment on his near-death experience. "But after I was very nearly destroyed in an accident aboard my seaplane, I wondered if it were not an accident at all, but a test," he said in an announcement from Amazon.com. And "Kindle Singles gave me the opportunity to share my story immediately."
The short ebook tells of how Bach met his "spirit guides" – including Jonathan – following his plane crash, when his plane, known as Puff, clipped a power line.
"There's no blessing that can't be a disaster, and no disaster that can't be a blessing," writes the author, who on 14 February will also release a new "complete" edition of Jonathan Livingston Seagull.
Publisher Scribner, called the book a story for people "who know there's more to this living than meets the eye: they'll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than they ever dreamed".
An early review from the Washington Post said Illusions II was written in Bach's "signature tone of carefully modulated bliss". But reviewer Ron Charles took issue with the author's fall "into the dark trap of the New Age movement: the metaphysical recklessness that implicitly blames victims for their illnesses and misfortunes".
"Chatting with his messiah, Bach learns that the plane crash took place because he wanted it to, even prayed for it, as a kind of test of his mental abilities. 'I needed to know whether my beliefs would overcome every one of the problems,' he says. Ick. Try hawking that New Age goo to children dying of cholera in Haiti," wrote Charles, adding that while he is "truly grateful that Bach has recovered from this ghastly accident … I wish he could articulate his wisdom in fresher, sharper, more insightful ways."
As well as Jonathan, reveals Charles, Bach also meets his late sheltie dog Lucky in another vision, and a ferret, who tells him: "Love is the only power in the universe".