REVIEW BY JM CORNWELL

J M Cornwell

The author lurks in every story, book, and article.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Review: And Then I Am Gone by Mathias Freese

I worried when I told Mathias Freese I’d review another of his books. I thought I’d have to relieve the clear look at myself through the prose of the first book I reviewed, The i Tetralogy. The book was a trip through the Holocaust and I didn’t like what I saw or felt. What caught me this time was the mention of Thoreau. I thought this book, And Then I Am Gone, would be his trip walking alongside Henry David Thoreau.

I was wrong again.

The book was somewhat jarring when he revealed that he enjoyed and looked forward to relations with his farm bred lady who had married him shortly before in Las Vegas, Nevada where he was a practicing psychologist and after the death of his wife. His second wife turned out to be a help when moving from Las Vegas to the house in the woods in the South where they had to make their new simpler life livable. Freese took a few walks around the place and knew what was going on in the latter years of his life far from his New York City borough beginnings where matriculated. His wife was an asset in deal with handymen, carpenters, and such and being in the South stoked his imagination as well as his libido. Evidently, the later years of life are not as devoid of the hormonal frenzy that welcomes us into the threshold of adulthood nor was adulthood with its schooling and training and living left behind with fond regrets and memories.

There are always some regrets and lots of memories in a long-lived life, but that is to be expected even of a secular Jewish teacher-cum-psychologist-cum-author using his life and memories for delving into the past and presenting his work in books. Where The i Tetralogy helped readers face that reality of the Holocaust, this current chapter in Freese’s life will help him–and us, the readers–at least come to terms with what lies behind and what still lies ahead.

There are breakdowns and glitches in us that collect and collude with what lies ahead. Thoughts of Thoreau and his time at Walden Pond provide a touchstone, at least for the author, throughout and probably inform his thoughts and his history as it relates the differences and the commonalities of living in and among nature. I was surprised and a little taken aback by his sheer joy and pleasure with intercourse with his new, country-bred wife, but I always am one who looks away out of respect for the nature of such relations. That is my problem and not the author’s or anyone else’s. That is the way I was brought up and the way I have always been. I prefer reticence to re-enacting Tom’s, or even Aladdin’s, bold peering at what would be best left unglimpsed and unpeeped.

I was drawn by the mention of Thoreau living in his simple cabin in the woods around Walden Pond since I’d never read the book or much of Thoreau. Thoreau was a naturalist and a rich man’s son who perfected the graphite pencil that I have used extensively while drawing and making notes during my continuous (it would seem) education, and there my actual knowledge ends. I never fell in love with Thoreau’s solitary existence or his rambles about the woods near Walden’s Pond, but I do retain the feeling of meandering among the woods, getting to know the denizens, and the peace and solitude of a simpler life.

I didn’t get the sense that Freese’s life in the woods was as carefree or as studied as Thoreau, but Freese, like me, although he has read Thoreau, strives to simplify life and make peace with his memories and life before his second marriage while the families of both mingle and get to know each other in this new place and different house were members of both families find their own paths over the hills and through the woods to the house where new memories will be made with future (and present) generations. Their simple home in the country will be fixed up to their tastes and standards, leaving the old behind and the new to be discovered, lived with, and made livable for their tenure and tastes.

Meanwhile, Thoreau will look on in spirit and find his own peace in his own way whichever way he will.

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Labels: blending families, blending memory and history, finding one’s own way, Las Vegas, life continues, mathias freese, memoir, psychologist, second time around, simple life, therapist, thoreau

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