Author Archives: Matt


by Mathias B. Freese

Posted on 14 Jan 2018 by oddspecs

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau tells the story of a New York City man who becomes an Alabama man. Despite his radical migration to simpler living and a late-life marriage to a saint of sorts, his persistent pet anxieties and unanswerable questions follow him. Mathias Freese 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”? In this memoir, Freese wishes to share how and why he came to Harvest, Alabama (both literally and figuratively), to impart his existential impressions and concerns, and to leave his mark before he is gone. – Blurb

And Then I Am Gone – A Walk With Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese
And Then I Am Gone – A Walk With Thoreau by Mathias B. Freese

And Then I Am Gone is a curious collection of things. Mostly, it’s a diary of a 76-year-old man (Freese). I hope he doesn’t mind but I also think it can be described as the ramblings of a 76-year-old man. Freese jumps around all over the place, telling us about his days, his family, wife, career, thoughts on politics, books, films and neighbors. This is what makes the book so enjoyable to read.

It’s as though we’re privy to a man’s thoughts as they come and go, naturally and freely. Freese is extremely honest and I can’t imagine anyone getting to the end of the book without disagreeing with him at least once or twice.

My favourite parts are when he writes in a more direct style, beginning paragraphs with direct observations: “Today was difficult.” and “Today is the third night of Hanukkah, and Nina is dismantling the artificial Christmas tree.”

Mathias Freese and I couldn’t be more different. He’s a 76-year-old American man. An atheist Jew. A father and a husband. I am a 31-year-old English woman who still writes “girl” and then has to back-space. A spiritualist. A girlfriend and mother only to cats so far.

But to read the honest thoughts of a human being brings about a certain closeness between author and reader. I want to know that people are scared of death, that they still have loving sex in their seventies, that they get riled over their neighbors and are desperate for their families to know how deeply they love them.

Perhaps you think that you don’t need to know these things, that they sound mundane. I think anyone would enjoy this book and find comfort in it. I hope that Mathias finds comfort when people enjoy the read too.

4/5 stars
4/5 stars

About the Author

Mathias B. Freese is a writer, teacher, and psychotherapist who has authored six books. His I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust won the Beverly Hills Book Awards and the Reader’s Favorite Book Award, and it was a finalist in the Indie Excellence Book Awards, the Paris Book Festival, and the Amsterdam Book Festival. In 2016 Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers, his first memoir, received seven awards. – Blurb


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


by Lara Bryn | December 14, 2017 · 2:30 pm
Review: And Then I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau

Recap: A move to the Southern countryside is not cause for Mathias B. Freese to begin thinking about the end of his life — he’s been doing that for years — but it does trigger it. After all, he’s in his seventies, and this will likely be the place where he dies. Freese reflects on how he got to this moment — where he succeeded and where he stumbled — in his latest memoir. But he also asks the age-old question: What is the point? What is the true meaning of life? His latest book is an experimental dive into the question to which there is no answer. But he continues to ask it anyway. At times he writes of self-awareness. In other moments, he writes just to write, to pass time.

He reflects on the works of literary gods and philosophers to help answer the question. He takes long walks in the woods. He goes to the doctor to try and improve his health — or at least maintain it. He spends time with his new wife decorating and fixing up their new house. In this book he writes about not only a physical journey — his move to Alabama — but also his philosophical, emotional and spiritual journey.

Analysis: To sit and think for long periods about death, life and the meaning of it is beyond undesirable to most — it is sad, worrying and maybe even nauseating. That’s the way it is for Freese too. He does not pretend to be above the rest of us. That said, he still pursues it head-on in a way many wouldn’t have the guts to do. I certainly don’t.

There were moments, in fact, upon reading his memoir when I had to stop because the panicky thoughts of my own mortality were too much to bear. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a recent significant death in my family that has zapped a lot of joy out of me and injected me with a heavy dose of irritability and grief. But mostly, I think anyone would find these topics difficult. What is there but life, right? It is all we have. As Freese points out frequently, we spend so much time thinking about other things — mostly trivial — that we never sit and think about our life on a grander scale. I identified with Freese and his anxieties, which made his memoir feel all the more moving and important, and I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.


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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