Grady Harp


5.0 out of 5 stars
REVISED: ‘The woods were a testing of your self-awareness, weren’t they?’October 16, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition

Mathias B. Freese is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist. His recent collection of essays, THS MOBIUS STRIP OF IFS, was the winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award of 2012 in general nonfiction and a 2012 Global Ebook Award finalist. His I TRULY LAMENT: WORKING THROUGH THE HOLOCAUST was one of three finalists chosen in the 2012 Leapfrog Press Fiction Contest out of 424 submissions. The same quality of humanity shines through on every page of his ’memoir’ TESSERAE– a sacred vessel of memoires and how they nurture us – received seven awards. And now he brings us AND THEN I AM GONE: A WALK WITH THOREAU

The title of this luminous book – AND THEN I AM GONE – conjures a diary’s end, a ‘last note’, a suicide letter, but none of those ideas is in these radiant pages. As will as all of Matt’s books this is a book of philosophy, a reflection of a life of meaning and of living and finally coming to face the need to have it all make sense. To borrow from another of his books, ‘What is it to remember? To recall, retrieve, reflect, to go back for a moment, to feel a period of time long since gone. What is it to have memory in this organic memory box that we own? What purpose does the past serve in the present other than societal clichés about it? Why do we have associative feelings when we dredge up an early memory? What is memory’s purpose?’

Matt moves from New York City to Harvest, Alabama seeing simplicity: ‘Here I am in Harvest, Alabama… I came to Harvest for my last inning. Harvest promises some substance before I take my last swan dive into oblivion. There is a line in a B movie, Marguerite, that grabs my attention: “To exist is to insist.” There is much existential weight to that. When insistence ends, we end. I came to Harvest for the last roundup, to make my insistence apparent to me first and then others—if they care at all.’

But instead of somnolence of thinking he instead blends with Thoreau’s existential philosophy. Matt wants his retreat from the societal “it” to be a brave safari for the self rather than cowardly avoidance, so who better to guide him but Henry David Thoreau, the self-aware philosopher who retreated to Walden Pond “to live deliberately” and cease “the hurry and waste of life”? Part 1 is that preparation: Part 2 is Matt’s walk with Thoreau. And that is enough to beckon you into this lovely book.

In addition to being profoundly inspiring to read this book interjects humor so pungent in recognition of our times – ‘When I think of America’s current president, Donald Trump, a living malapropism, I feel mortified that he exists, Henry, that his corruptive and corrupting self is gangrenous. He would appall you and your counterpart, Emerson. I am so disappointed with my fellow Americans, but most societies wane and fall, and this nation is in that dynamic ‘

If you are able to resist plunging into this comforter then perhaps you need this book even more than most. Matt is wise, thoughtful, inspiring and a very fine writer. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, October 17

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