Dr, Eben Alexander III. is the narrator of his own journey, which lends a true sense of his unique personality (and while maybe not the most interesting theatrically speaking) voice to the words he uses to represent his experience. We get the view of just who this is happening to, the last person you would expect to come back with such a unique tale:
a very conservative, egotistical, not introspective, wealthy, Ivy League trained, privileged, entitled man, with a tremendous sense of family and their importance, but not much more than that-yep that is what I hear, even _after_ the NDE-which makes his passion to tell his story, ironically.all the more remarkable!
Most doctors,particularly the elite neurosurgeons that inhabit "rarified air", are known to be among the most egotistical and self aggrandizing,"god-like" MDs (I know from experience and one in remote family sadly). One detects that this part of Dr. Alexander's NDE has not yet fully hit home to integrate into his day to day ways of behaving or talking at least., His somewhat egotistical view as to why his NDE is the 'lottery ticket" of NDEs is a bit of a stretch but matches well to who he was/is.. From my view, regardless, it is great to have Dr. Alexander on board to face what are not generally educated skeptics.
Any book with great claims requires great proof, and Dr. Alexander does give us an MD level proof -well, one that most laymen can and should grasp but it may not impress is colleagues totally (one's brain being in a persistently vegetative state is pretty much all one needs to hear to understand that if not for a soul, he could NOT have any memory of his NDE as he had no brain period-not even a "lizard" brain, any pre-med student could probably cut this "proof". However, his book and others like it always face a mass of naysayers- who will trash it doubly because it challenges the status quo argument against NDEs, " this is all brain gas and a battery discharging, endorphins and wishful projections of a dying brain"-wrong his brain was not dying, it was dead.. The proposition of a soul or life after life (as Dr. Moody so well coined the term) also dares the atheist western scientific establishment. I know, Einstein and most of the greatest minds were not atheists but scientists pawn that off to opinion even to a mind like Einstein in deference to contemporary or recent cultural icons like Dr. Carl Sagan, who showed almost a disdain for any thinking that challenged the status quo in spite of his "Billions and billions" view of wonder, he spent precious little time, it would seem, allowing for any views that did not fit his oddly narrow spiritual mindset.
And so, after this book,a best seller, has made its largest impact, it seems we are still here, that is, where we were, not a lot closer to taking this topic any more seriously, in spite of Dr. Alexanders valiant attempt to dent the onslaught of mockery faced by anyone presenting their case for NDEs and an afterlife. .The western scientific mind does not try or want to think outside the box it has placed itself in, heck we can not even admit a whole plant might be a cure for an illness, the FDA dictates an illness may only be cured by a "drug" and they mean an isolated compound, how much can you expand from that limitation in our medical field! Other fuel for the skeptics and quick dismissers, terms like "Heaven" and "God" while perhaps aiding book sales and not offending Dr. Alexanders fellow church members as much, do him no service in trying to claim this is a scientifically reasoned "Proof"-I do not think it is written as a Proof in the requirements of the scientific, theological, or even legal schools. Terms used in religious doctrine undermine that case a bit (even though a closer look shows no such major cultural bias IMHO). This is hardly the "Pope's tour of heaven", it is true in spirit to other NDEs.
To Dr. Alexander's credit, I feel it is not incompatible with more open belief systems that are hardly "religious" like Yogic traditions and the more empirical (less culturally munged Tibetan gods added for integration) Buddhism but rather it is simply "spiritual"- focused on a bigger picture that life simply can not be only this limited 70 to 80 year experience we have on earth, and here is some information that compels us to think more about this,at te very least. Dr. Alexanders initially "limited" and now, of course, expanding, world/life view limited his ability to express concepts that, given how we train our western doctors,he never had a great deal of time to spend pondering. it is this area that Proof of Heaven, can feel a bit like a cold hospital bed, sadly, but it can also go to some pretty far out places, like a psychic contacting him in his comatose state, that is not nearly discussed sufficiently IMHO, nor the whole NDE part...it sometimes feels as though he needs a second pass at this, perhaps hypnosis would lengthen and improve his memories and provide more words to describe what most of us bought this book for, not for proof of heaven, but for a description of the afterlife, in all its infinite beauty and wisdom.
When his doctors and family essentially know it is iimpossible for him to recover and begin to consider the next day beginning idea of shutting off life support rather than leaving him in persistent vegetative state-he is brain dead by any definitiion and anyone who says his experience is caused by brain signals did not read the book. His mentions of family interactions and his younger son, Bond (yep, another seemingly unfathomably WASPY name-"James or Stocks and", draws a picture of the fight going on in his fathers almost lifeless body by drawing a picture, brings home the absolute reality of this to any parent.
In spite of his assertions of how uniquely qualified his pedigree and degree in brain surgery etc. make him, it comes off as more than a bit arrogant that the man is humbled by his experience but never ever self deprecates to any depth of how he was (I think he would admit) a bit of a pompous wind bag before, and yet he sounds still like a bit of that same person,. For example, the way he addresses his son as Eben the Fourth every single instance in the book, without ever saying I can not fault Dr. Alexander for being who he is however, I know many MDs like him having had major surgery at the very same BWH/MGH Harvard Medical School hospitals he spent much of his early career at. To their credit however, many MDs their have also been the polar opposite. The irony of this is not lost on the reader, especially the irony of THIS PARTICULAR DOCTOR being shown realms many, far more seekers than the doctor was and who are not given the privilege "the tour of heaven" Dr. Alexander decries all too briefly. Ironically a Hippy turned Yuppy, who has a grounding in the vernacular and a bit more education in the esoteric could provide the details I long to hear of and know and yet, that book would not be as unique then as this book is. Dr. Alexander seems to fail the one test I wish I heard a bit more of, that being humility-and perhaps I am wrong...it is different to listen to a book than read it, sometimes especially a shorter book like this might serve one better on paper.
Proof of the Validity of the Soul as Unique and Separate from the Mind. )sounds now more of a philisopical treatise by St. Augustine I suppose, but using the word Heaven, is trendy, sells books but has the negative effect in that it connotes a possible bias to a world view that is religious. In fact, to address the target audience he most wants to convince, one would expect the title to not be aimed at the "Heaven" book crowd...it is just a word, but its a loaded one implying paradise etc.. One would expect in fact the words, proof and heaven to be almost crossing different cultural angles that are incompatible, heaven, by religious connotation, implies faith, when none is required to see the validity of the afterlife. But Dr. Alexander never had to prove anything to me, but I am glad for his efforts.
I would buy the book again having rread/listened to it, and I think Dr. Alexander might consider writing a second book where he removes his "life drama" and gets some yypnosis to fill us in mud more on tee details of his tour of "heaven" and his discussions with "AHM": or "AUM" as he calls his conception of the divine creator or wisdom. That clearly is not easy for most to grasp in the way it is presented. Yet I knew what he meant, wanted more of course.
It stands head and shoulders above the rest like a mighty Sequoia.
Prabakar, the always smiling and loyal friend to Shantaram/Lim. CLearly Pravakar was the single most uplifiting character in a book where their is good, evil, very evil, and very good-and the best good which is Prabakar. Withouth this character the underpinnings and some of the more distasteful behavior of the hero of the book would never be able to pull off some of the things he is driven to do. I would list the lead as well, being Lim, but he is the hero and it asked for favorite character, so I consider the question to mean characters other than the hero....but anyway, they are all great and really no character in this novel is not of importance.
I actually thought Humphrey Bower _was_ Gregory David Roberts as I thought he was such a solid Aussie accent and talks the talk and "walks the walk" so to speak, that he seems like he could be the author himself, truly a great performance in reading.
No! Not possible or desirable, this is a meal to have daily for a month almost or at leat a week and a half-being 50 hours nearly but I literally was upset when it ended, a sign of all book readers know they haev finsished a book that has created an entire world from which they do not want to leave, perhaps that is reason so many series novels exist now to my surprise. This is to books what Papillon was to movies, a great sprawling epic which only in the end did i find out was based loosely on the authors actual life-that was a great finding at the thank yous/acknowledgements at the end....a true story of unfathomable depth and intricacy. An entire life in a book (more like a dozen lives for the average Joe)..-the scope of this book is so daunting I do not know how the author pulled it off and yet it works on every level IMHO, simply breath taking. I do not read fiction and I was so happy to find that I was reading a story not really fictional for the most part. It is not that I dislike fiction but I do like things that are REAAL and this book is very very real and true to its inner voice, which I find a rarity in writers of our day....Roberts is a genius and an incredibly resilient and inspiring man.
I enthusaustically endorse anyone to listen to this book, it is the first one I can say that I am sure listening made me get through it faster and more enjoyably in fact. To compare it to any of the other 3 books I reviewed would be to compare Passion fruit with raisins or perhaps a Filet Mignon to a hot dog?
Yes....but not for a while....it got me interested, kept up some good suspense, but was monotonous in it shrillness and lack of character development. Could not decide which was more racist, Tom's own attempts to portray people of different race's thought process (or lack thereof), and dialogue in fact make the book ironically seem like a view into the author's own clear cultural bias and outright racism and sexism.
Magdalena- I did see some aspects of the problems faced by Latinas (yes only in America is that word used Tom- one of your better points) who enter into American culture as defined in the way Tom does, as less of a melting pot and more of a pot full of metal utensils that never do get to melting, just clanking into one another without much chance of more than some casual interplay. However. she is the only character who I feel expresses what seem to be "real" feelings that I have seen in my own life's experience as a person who is married to someone from South America (but who came to the US in her teens not born here, as Magdalena certainly was). Mr. Wolfe's zest for "keeping it real" and using dialogue and characters he has learned to create from his life's research, seem to show an appalling lack of insight into the actual cultures he deals with, rather he has a very surface, caricature like view of almost every race he describes, sadly.
Nestor, as the only really decent person in the novel (Magdalena is decent but her failings lie in her humanity and social climbing). Mr. Phillips reading of Nestor seems pretty true to character, and while Mr. Phillips joins Mr. Wolf in going overboard in some of the just awful stereotyped language, ebonics, absurdly thick Russian accents, and attitudes...Nestor is mostly a breath of fresh air whom Mr. Phillips really may enjoy acting the part of. There may find one of two characters that are given that we can hold on to and like, but never really understand.
Well, it certainly ended much more quickly than I expected so rather than a follow up I would have liked to seen more resolution to the lives of the characters, especially, Gislain and her father, and even Nestor and Magdalena.
Sure the major plot lines and some loose ends are tied up nicely (not that it was hard to predict the outcomes from the beginning).
Given their utility in fairly isolated parts of the story one could argue that characters, like Gislain (the Hatian girl with the "white face"), and her brother and dad, were mainly tossed in so as not to leave out a major community in the Miami area,. not that any race is spared any more than the Simpsons spares stereotyping every ethnic and social group it gets its hands one, but I don't think Mr. Wolf sought to be like an unfunny version of a Simpsons movie.
The weak coverage of the thought processes the oh so narrow minded parents of the heroes/heroines in the book, seem to be a big part of the reason for the books seming total lack of grasp into the main character's inner dialogue being so vapid and only ego focused. The experiences that make people who they are in the book are largely left to the sweeping generalizations that the book seems to be wishing did not exist (or does it?). It is about race, but certainly never delves into much more than to scratch of the surface and the stereotypical behaviors we have come to see in our media, and sadly novels like this when they give lip service to Latin/Spanish Americans (yes only in America do we have that word), African Americans, Haitians, and even the poor rich WASPS that Mr. Wolf loves to hate (self loathing?)....alas Tom, time for some meditation in the mountains I think...or is it too late, maybe a road trip with Further (what remains of the Grateful Dead touring groups).? Left me a bit cold, but entertained at least...that Normal laugh witll never leave you-Thanks Lou Diamond Phillips for nailing that laugh!
I thought that Tom Wolf, who's last book I read, and loved, was "The Elektric Kool-Aid Acid Test (yes it speaks poorly of my keeping up with the times of Mr. Wolf), did not pick up much from what I felt he surely must have learned from his time living and writing in one of the most iconic of times, the Haight-Ashbury/Grateful Dead/Merry Prankster explosion onto the world scene from the innocent and greatly characterized small group of people that Tom was privileged to spend a great deal of time with. That book suffered a lot less from lack of understanding its characters, but then again he spoke of real people in that book and therefore he understood his characters. Tom seems to have devolved from the man who wrote that book, his disdain for social climbing, the so called "elite" and apparent dislike (or is it an embrace with a pained look on his face) seems to remain, but one can not help feel that Tom is as in touch with his inner feelings and those of his characters ad as his most heinous character in his book, Norman (is there really a psychiatrist whose sole specialty is pornography addiction?). It is hard to not fall into this story and find\ oneself enjoying it, but having it read to you really brings home even further, just how troublingly racist the book itself seems, unintentionally or intentionally-politicl correctness is not necessary but when one feels like they have to look around the room to be sure nobody hear's them listening to narration of a book, well its problematic IMHO. Decent story, hard to like prose, and hard to like characters...hence hard to like author (In spite of his many gifts)?
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