Book: This Mobius Strip of Ifs
Author: Mathias B. Freese
Published by: Wheatmark
Date published: 2012
Length: 164 pages
Genres: Memoirs, Essays, Collection, American culture, Psychology
The Synopsis: In this impressive and varied collection of creative essays, Mathias B. Freese jousts with American culture. A mixture of the author’s reminiscences, insights, observations, and criticism, This Mobius Strip of Ifs examines the use and misuse of psychotherapy, childhood trauma, complicated family relationships, his frustration as a teacher, and the enduring value of tenaciously writing through it all.
Freese scathingly describes the conditioning society imposes upon artists and awakened souls. Whether writing about the spiritual teacher Krishnamurti, poet and novelist Nikos Kazantzakis, or film giants such as Orson Welles and Buster Keaton, the author skewers where he can and applauds those who refuse to compromise and conform.
The profound visceral truths in this book will speak to anyone who endeavors to be completely alive and aware.
I didn’t really know what to expect from This Mobius Strip of Ifs when I was first approached to review the collection of essays. Having read few non-fiction pieces and not having a keen interest in the genre, I was quite hesitant when turning the first few pages. What a relief then, that I was blown away by a simply stunning assortment of essay which were insightful, entertaining and quite moving in their content.
The forward is excellent; succinct and concise, it brings together all the works in a short summary which almost reads as a short biography to Mathius Freeses’ life. It was extremely useful to have, for if you wanted to dip in and out of the collection and read the essays in whatever order you fancied, you could go back and remind yourself how each fitted in to the ‘wider picture’.The collection is split into three groups. The first of the essays are under the collective banner “knowledge is death”
. As described in the forward, “to know who we are required that we ‘die’ to many ideas we have of ourselves. Paradoxically, this ‘death’ quickens awareness, makes us more alive and sensitive.”
The essays are short extracts of Freeses’ journey to decondition himself; they explore everything from the labels society places on people to how his own awareness grew and developed. This may sound heavy but it is told with wit and intelligence, making what could be quite a difficult subjects accessible and comparatively not too difficult to understand.When I review any piece of work I carry with me a pen and a load of post-it notes to jot the odd thought down, to act as a prompt for when I come to write my final review. I had hundreds of post-it notes scattered all over this first group of essays and you know what many of them said? “I loved that sentence”
or “I loved that quote”
. In the end there are just to many to list but here are some of my favourites:
“Answers are expired prescriptions.” (Pg. 6)
“…we own the slave mentality.” (Pg. 16)
“Why so you seek books, schools, teachers to inform you what is?” (Pg. 19)
“Organise your life financially and it becomes an attribute, and no more than that.” (Pg. 21)
“To not be asleep in life.” (Pg. 36)
“I self-publish to announce I am here, for I will soon be gone.” (Pg. 49)
Having gone through therapy myself and having come out the ‘other side’ unscathed, I really connected with the first group of essays, particularly one entitled Ten Canon. I feel the essay is almost a play on the ‘Ten Commandments’ but in this case, it is the ten principals for achieving healing awareness. I came to find that I myself had attained almost all of these through my own therapy. This is what this first group does best; it connects with the reader. It almost offers a free course of therapy right in your hands. There are many points for which to start a discussion (and hence this would make a great book club read) and offers much food for thought long after you’ve read them.
The second group were collectively entitled “Metaphorical Noodles”. I must admit I didn’t like the essays as much as the first selection. The essays discussed various actors, films, producers, directors and so forth and for some it read like a biography of their screen career. Ironically, these actually read like ‘essays’ where as the first group didn’t seem as formal. This may also be partly due to the fact I connected with the first group so strongly; to go from quite personal topics to those I knew little about or had a deep interest in, was probably the reason why I didn’t enjoy them as much.
“The Seawall” was the title for the final group of essays. For me these were the most moving set of essays as the author describes the relationships with his family. About Caryn describe Freeses’ love and changing relationship with his daughter, Caryn. This essay was poignant and so touching, it moved me to the point of tears.
“Our relationship was one of orbiting moons, still and silent as they did their turns, in a vacuum.” (Pg. 124)
This sentence is a perfect example of how articulate Freese is and how powerful his words can be. His writing throughout all of the essays is superb; it’s difficult to see how it could have been worded any differently.
Perhaps my only couple of criticisms would be that the tone of the essays can sometimes be depressing and if read in one sitting, I could imagine the essays would be quite over-whelming.
Out of all of the essays, if I could only recommend my top five, it would have to be:
- Ten Canon
- Introductory Remarks on Retirement from a Therapist
- About Caryn
- I Really Don’t Know Me and I Really Don’t Know You
- Reflections on Rummaging
…oh and A Spousal Interview…and – you see it’s really pointless me even trying to narrow it down!
The Verdict – A stunning assortment of essays and possibly the best work by an Indie author I have ever read. Freese is incredibly articulate and manages to turn difficult subjects into something accessible and attractive to readers. In the essay ‘At 67’ Freese writes, “long after I am gone they can point to a grandfather or great-grandfather and say that that at least one Freese got out of the rubble of that family and made something of his life, left something of value.”This is that something! 5 Stars.