Up on the mountain, in a dark cave, someone is searching his soul for ways to rise above the frustrations of the flesh. Ten years later, upon emerging from the cave, he writes a book about what worked for him. Descending the mountain, meandering ever closer to the city at its base, one meets other gurus, at ever more affable altitudes, occupying caves for increasingly shorter durations, with increasingly better lighting and plumbing, composing less rarefied "what worked for me" books. Every one of them, or so we hope, proffers wisdom from some higher perspective which will help us to rise "above it all." We Earthlings beneath want to view our traumas from different angles, so we read the books. Michael Heppell's vantage point is about as close to sea level as a guru ever gets. No long stays breathing dark thin air for Michael--maybe a few hours of reading musty old books in his poorly lit attic. His wisdom is doled out in parcels such as "five ways to make a long train ride interesting," or "how I used an acidic solution to cure my indigestion." He recommends calling the sniffles "a cleansing." There, there, now . . . all better! His suggestions are sophistry, but words can sooth the day. His advice bites will not flip you from a hurricane's tempest into its halcyon. In the event of a hurricane, flip yourself from the attic of Heppell's enlightenment into the dungeon of despair under your "flat." For indigestion on long train rides, "flip it," Heppell style.
"600 Hours of Edward" is the story of an Aspie who is almost 40 and supported by an overbearing, successful, explosive father, with whom he can only bond over their love of the Dallas Cowboys. Despite his shortcomings, Edward's father loves him deeply. Edward is self-isolated because relationships are too complicated, emotionally charged, disruptive, and involve too many confusing points of decision for him. He is a brave and sensitive soul. Any author who can write a book which narrates the inner life of a character and contains so little action, but nonetheless remains fascinating, is thoroughly brilliant. The narration is also pitch perfect. Bravo!
In my opinion, Drout puts too much emphasis on communication between the writer and his audience. In the Art of Reading by the Teaching Company authors are surveyed invariably say that they started with a question to be explored, not a plan for influencing the reader. He seems to leave accidents out of history and sticks to the history of literary criticism in academe, not how to form your own ideas as an involved reader. He merely nods to the reader while he explores academic debates that get pretty tiresome and redundant. I found this also to be true about his treatment of J.R.R. Tolkein. Rather than expostulate on a close reading of the text, or even limited exposition of the fantasy genre, we get the biography of Tolkein. Perhaps I was led astray, thinking this was a survey course that focused more closely on text, but such lingerings were few and far between. Authors, critics and university colleagues are the subject of this series, for anyone interested in that type of discussion.
If you want something utterly maudlin, something that violates the “show don’t tell” rule of character development, this is for you. I bought it because it is a crowd pleaser, and I enjoy many crowd pleasers in this category (like “The Help” or “Life of Pi” or “Water for Elephants”) but not when they are so unoriginal in style and plot. I don’t know whether or not to recommend it, because I don’t always find crowd pleasers so disappointing, but this surely didn't make the cut. To each his own.
Upon listening to the first third of the Tin Drum, I scurried to my library and gave it a one star rating. I tried again, listening to the second section, and the rating went up to four stars. The book confounded me with the confabulations of the demented musings of a diminished man, who matures inside the body of a person who never grows any larger than a three-year-old. He takes refuge under women’s skirts, as he bears witness to the events of World War II during the invasion of Poland. Each and every of his mental constructs is made up of multiple, arcane, and original analogies. Freud and Young could have spent years arguing over whether coalescing “though bubbles” in his “steam of consciousness” tirades were really the apex of a series of “transferences,” harking back to some unconscious landscape of repressed memories or uncatalogued “archetypes” describing the most eclectic features of the collective unconscious. Such are the ravages or warring camps in the field of psychology, warring cognitions of adult and toddler occupying the same mind, tossed unwittingly about by the warring parties of World War II. Such carnage! It’s brilliant and bogus and you have to love it or hate it. I grew to love what I started out hating.
One of the most common complaints readers have about mysteries is their disappointing and often pat resolutions. Kafka is a complex, enigmatic character, whose motives constitute pieces of a jigsaw which does not complete his portrait until his journey ends. He gains maturity as his personality unravels. The mystery is likewise expanded as it is revealed. Murakami builds a story as he tears it apart. I was at once shattered and haunted by the fluid intricacy of this ineffable narrative.
I would like to contrast Glen Herold's subliminal message targeting addiction with familiar twelve-step approaches. People develop habits, whether healthy or destructive, to fulfill a recurrent need of some kind. The need behind any habit will persist indefinitely. If communion with others through meetings or practicing the twelve steps serves as a good replacement for the "bad" remedy, then an addict can recover this way. But what if AA methods do not fill the void? Herold guides the listener to consider what he got out of his addiction, what need it was serving and what "good" habit would fill the same need. The "hypnotized" one is probed for a solution that only he can find. "Physician, heal thyself!" This is worth more than five stars--it's worth all the stars in the sky!
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