Category Archives: Blog

AND THEN I AM GONE

Grady Harp

HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER

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

AND THEN I AM GONE, REVIEWED BY JAN PEREGRINE

Reviewed by Jan Peregrine

And Then I Am Gone: A Walk with Thoreau
by Mathias B. Freese
Wheatmark
Paperback: 126 pages, September 22, 2017, ISBN-13: 978-1627875387

Though I’m not a 76-year-old atheist of Jewish background (far from it), nor have I lived in urban New York, Nevada, or rural Alabama (the latter being the setting for his ‘latest philosophical musings) or appreciate Woody Allen’s deprecating humor, I feel a rather bittersweet kinship with Mathias B. Freese, author of And I Am Gone: A Walk With Thoreau. We share an understanding in many ways.

In the chaos of sharing a well-appointed cabin with his beloved, last wife, too often being irritated with home and Internet repair, increasing health concerns, and the unprofressionalism of hired labor, Freese describes his preferred style of being a professional, (retired) psychotherapist. While I’ve only created a psychoanalytic character mysteriously calling herself Dr. Freudine for over a decade, Freese and I believe in client-centered therapy where the therapist pays complete attention to his or her client and leaves notetaking until after the session ends. Such therapist puts down his overall, experiential-like impressions, which is what my Dr. Freudine did.

This is his second memoir, the first book of his I’ve read, and he expresses the hope that his invariably few readers may learn to see better, in an existential way.

I think Freese excels more in helping his readers to feel. As his own therapist has summed up Freese’s gift for humanity, to paraphrase, his therapeutic presence glories in being felt. He listens. He observes. Yes, he offers an ‘abundance of awareness.’

Not only do Freese and I concur on how a psychotherapist best engages with a client, but our approach to writing books also bisects. I too write to try to understand myself, indeed without outlines or a rigid plot structure. I daresay he would nod eagerly in understanding that your characters, given the chance, tell the story for you if you’ll listen to them, and in a more honest, exciting way.

You may call me an underground existentialist, Mr. Freese,. I see better through my fictitious characters’ eyes, and in the novel I’m writing the characters are struggling with their identities.

Other things in his book I can relate to include a profound disappointment and criticism of the shocking 2016 election for U.S. President (though he avoids praising Hillary Clinton, which I never would), an impatience and alienation with religion as I’m also an atheist, and a love of clever books and films.

I probably won’t face the specter of death for many decades, unlike Freese, and his preoccupation with death can be depressing. He has written an award-winning book about the Jewish Holocaust, but so many people today frustratingly choose to forget about the tragedy and to deny that they’ll one day die. I don’t deny that it happened or that I’ll die, but I wouldn’t care to read more about it. Maybe if I was much older, Jewish, and of a dark nature.

How I wish I too could walk in the woods as if with Henry David Thoreau!

Yes, you’re right that if an senior “at risk” citizen can do it, so could I, except that I must use a power scooter. Maybe you could for me, hmm?

Freese writes about not living for the answers to life, but living in the questions. He grieves that facing death, so largely about losing control of his life, is all that he’s left with in his cabin. Loving his wife and a visit by his son create some joy in his remaining days, but writing has become more elusive, even bewildering. Although he still hopes to write another reflective book.

Comments on Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts

Todd Tarbox, grandson of Roger Hill, headmaster of the famous Todd School for Boys, Woodstock, Illinois, along the progressive approach of A.S. Neill’s Summerhill, and the son of Hascy Tarbox, younger classmate and perhaps rival to Orson Welles contacted me after seeing some reference to Welles by me. Over the years, hear and there, I have written about Welles and Citizen Kane. I devote one chapter in my recent book to Welles. And what is that attraction?

I am appalled by what this culture, other cultures, do to the artist. The average Joe may or may not be emotionally impoverished; however, the real artist is never poor. That is a line from Babette’s Feast. Throughout his career critics faulted Welles for his incomplete and unfinished films. I ask you: what human being is not a mess of unfinished business when he comes to die? Why this envy of Welles and the need to tear him down. The appealing aspect for me is how Welles fought this off all his life and elements of that resistance are in this book.

Of course, Tarbox’s book is the kind of book we cinephiles read while chewing Jujyfruits; it is absorbing, illuminative, informative, often provocative and with all the minutiae that fans want to know about Welles’s life, this man with an IQ of 185. So I read it straight through the night; it was not an analysis of the relationship between Roger Hill, the mentor, and Welles, the mentored; it was beyond that. What we have here is a delicious artifact, tapes that Hill-Welles kept of their conversations over the years, knowing full well that each was an important part of the other’s history. They both had a mastery of Shakespeare and often one would begin a quotation from the Bard only to have the other complete it; both their memories are astonishing.

What is salient here is the connection between a 70 year old and a 90 year old, the sustaining intellectual and emotional content of their conversations, the vigor in which they are expressed. Although the remembrance of things past is richly embroidered — that actor, that school play, that show, it really reveals how Roger Hill viewed Welles as a foster son if you will and loved him for his very being! That is Hill’s contribution, as I see it. Welles did not have to meet any expectations as the boy wonder; the world would sordidly go after him for decades on that hobbyhorse. The book is about love, the reciprocal exchange of love. Todd Tarbox should follow up with a book about his own father who is also an intriguing presence; he chose to stay close to the hearth of Hill, even marrying his daughter, while Welles flew the coop, but not entirely.  He chose to maintain a friendship over decades — how many of us can say that? or have the staying power for such a relationship? or the opportunity?

In psychoanalytic lore, if I remember the rubrics, it’s been some time since I practiced; there is the concept of the “hold.” Think of the therapist presenting the client with a giant trampoline, encouraging him to bounce and cavort all he wants, knowing full well that he is safe and secure, that no judgment will be made; to know what it is to be enjoyed as a human being unconditionally. Roger Hill gave Welles that support. Often he ends a phone conversation with words of love, of encouragement; often his words are nurturing and admiring without being a sycophant. He enjoyed Welles’s genius without extolling it; he admired the boy who grew into a great artist and man. Although his works won Hill’s admiration, the thrust of the book is that Welles as a person was his best accomplishment. That is why Welles went back and back to Hill, for he was loved.

I must say here that there is dissenting material, lots of it, about Welles as a man; genius can be insufferable and often we need to cover our eyes before it, think of Salieri and Mozart. Nevertheless, Welles is revealed here as open, greatly liberal, free of racism, and tender. I recall this man who chose not to go to college telling his daughter (Chris Welles Feder) that the world was her curriculum and go forth and taste of it; she recalls how one day he took her through Rome explaining what this building or that statue meant historically, enriching her from his own vast treasury of experiences (he is rumored to have read one or two books a day).

Roger Hill was an inner-directed stoic, whose appeal as I sense it, was his capacity to deal with life moment to moment, as we discover Welles and he periodically threading their talks with the denial of death, the breakdown of the body from ageing, of living, of dying, of what is and is not important in the world. Welles is a fountainhead of information which he shares with Hill who takes it in and often asks for more, or clarification; Hill is not threatened by Welles knowledge which may have been one of the emotional ties that Welles appreciated. Welles detested cant of any kind.

I can sum it up, for it is not hard to do: Hill, as depicted in the book, was a free and liberated human being and was not threatened by that same blessing in any other human being. Hill, in fact, encouraged that in his students, to be free, not to be disciples, for that is deadly and Welles drank deeply from that. At the same I must caution that all is not simple between human beings and not all of the complexities of both men are revealed here, or can be.

Revamped Website, Same Old Writer

Welcome to a completely rethought site, courtesy of my wife, Jane, who has diligently and peristently dealt with the assumptions that Yahoo and BlueHost have about the average human being and his or her capacity to navigate the systems. Insular, to say the least, reminding me of monks whittling their quills to illuminate parchments created only for themselves and royalty, immensely self-regarding. To transfer from one to the other “host” involved more than a week of tedious question and answer through the impersonal world of the chat room. However, Jane acquired the inane lingo in a short time and she is, I repeat, an information specialist and  librarian well versed in databases and all that claptrap. And she had a hard time of it! And how about me, having grown up with model airplanes with propellers? You have to be a ninny not to see where we are headed, a world without critical thinking for it is no longer a requisite for daily functioning. We are in a transistional period and all such times, historically, involve a giving up and a taking in, followed by a brushing down with a comb to settle all the dander.

Looking for bloggers to forward my new book for a review, I have seen literally more than a hundred sites, all of varying quality. However, one knows when a site is lucid. I am seeking that here. I am very much open to suggestions as to how to make it easier for you, the reader, to find your way around. That’s the teacher and therapist in me.

Observe that I have grouped together reviews for you to peruse my three books, The i Tetralogy, Down to a Sunless Sea, and This Mobius Strip of Ifs. Using the Tags section or Cloud, as the jargon goes, you can get access to any topic discussed in any of the blogs, not all subjects having been tagged by me out of innocence. Or lack of knowing. Or not wanting to bother with what is expected of me.

If you go to the Category Section, scroll down and select a subject or topic I have written about; that might save you time to get at the heart of my work. In the sidebar is a title called Interviews with links to writers and bloggers who have interviewed me over the years. This provides needed insight into how I go about writing and living. Additionally on the sidebar are links to literary ezines that I have either been reviewed in, published or appeal to my sensibilities as a writer. Also in the masthead is a category called Stories/Articles which provides you with a wide range of essays that I ‘ve written over the years. Under the tab called Books you will find access to my published books with the usual promotional trumpeting. Buy the Book gives you Amazon for purchasing any of my books.

In 2007 Jane and I went to Spain and Portugal. In Barcelona we saw several sites in which Gaudi situated his masterpieces, private residences, parks and churches, uniquely his, uniquely Barcelona.  We were swept away by his vision, imaginative technique,  quirkiness and  efforts to make the organic world become alive in stone, tile and wood. Like Wright, he did it all, except Wright was mightily impressive while Gaudi indigenously overwhelming. Apples and oranges these two, but while one evinced grandeur the other evinced glory. So, the masthead has a tight exterior shot of one of Gaudi’s private residential homes for your pleasure. I hope to show more of his work here.

A final note and wholly self-serving which is the mud of any blog, except I won’t show pictures of a child’s birthday cake, unicorns from my fantasy world, or applaud the fact that I have a spouse of unearthly skills and talents.  Jane is an information specialist and a highly skilled librarian with other degrees as well. If like me your site has dated and in need of renovation, Jane can construct a site just like this one or a variation thereof. She has  mastered WordPress with all its widgets and witchery. Go to the sidebar and access her site, Telling About Yourself. You can make arrangements with Jane there.

Finally, if you are interested in reviewing my new book of personal essays and memoir, This Mobius Strip of Ifs, contact me with your address.

 

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...