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Showing posts from December, 2016

10:04 The Last Book of the Year

Ben Lerner's second novel was not my choice for reading on holiday. It was imposed by my traveling companion. As soon as he was finished, without question, I should begin. My finishing E.M. Forster's 'The Longest Journey' coincided with his completion; and, so I did. Happily as it transpired.

Part of the happiness might be explained by not being Forster! 'The Longest Journey' was Forster's own personal favourite and the one the critics, consensually, have least liked. The critics, I fear, are right which goes to show, at least, that writers are not necessarily the best judges of their own work. You can see how the book is vitally important to its author and that very anxiety - that it should work - obstructs its ability to do so. It is akin to that moment in cooking when your concern for whether something is done makes you constantly intervene and make sure that it will come out wrong!

A key theme of '10:04' is what should an author write. It is a …

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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Whilst J.B. Priestley's novel, 'The Magicians' at some points, creaks with its particular age. One defect is perhaps its approach to the feminine - their characters are insufficiently drawn and it grates - you stand outside them and a little to the right. Sometimes, however, it scintillates with as an acute a pattern of social criticism as can be imagined. But primarily it is a novel of metaphysical vision, teasing out the meaning of time, and inviting the reader to see their life as a continuous whole, where every memory, truly remembered and lived, might heal the past and transform the possibilities of the future. Reading it this year, I found myself, literally, propelled back into memorised life and vivifying them with new life such that I felt strangely renewed. The lenses adjusted able to see more freshly. Like many a 'spiritual' experience, this ebbs but like every 'peak 'experience, once had, stepping back into it helps trigger (as Abraham Maslow not…

Books of the Year (Read not published)

I continued this year my recently found ability not to finish a book. It was a great relief when I could find myself adrift, disconnected, and happily able to lay something aside!

Meanwhile, apart from continuing my way through the short stories of Kathleen Mansfield at, I confess, a very slow pace, these are the five most compelling books I read in 2016 (in chronological order). [Mansfield's stories are beautiful - precise observations of people's complex psychologies, tinged with a regard for the not known, the indescribable somethings that haunt a life].

'The Man who could Fly' by Michael Grosso is a compelling study of St Joseph Cupertino, the seventeenth century Franciscan, who undoubtedly could fly. A feat he accomplished repeatedly accompanied by clouds of witnesses, many of whom were originally sceptical. The virtue of Michael's book is three-fold. First to carefully sift the evidence and establish that this was the case (and that counter arguments come no…

An old yet timely biography of Jung

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I was walking up the stairs in a tower (presumably Bollingen built by Jung as a retreat) and reached a landing. Opposite me was a door, I knocked, stepped in, and found the man himself, Jung, in bed. I thought of it as his 'death bed' and the room was suffused with the light of a descending sun. He looked at me, direct, friendly if piercing eyes, and asked me, 'Do you know yoga?' "Yes,' I replied, 'I know of it'!

One of my two dreams about Jung (both curiously set in his bedroom) and this one straightforwardly illuminating getting you to ponder the gap between knowing as embodied understanding and knowing of as simply intellectual currency.

It was the bridging of that gap - of prioritising the empirical and emergent over the dogmatic and logically structured - that was Jung's life's work. Always reminding his audience that he was a healer first, a theoretician of consciousness second. Always bringing the crucial encounter back to the individua…

Entering the Circle: A psychiatrist's shamanic journey.

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A psychiatrist practicing in a severe, if not unredeemed, hospital in Novosibirsk in Siberia at the time of perestroika is referred a patient by her friend a doctor in general practice. The patient, a young male, Nicolai, is from the Altai, a mountainous region in southern Siberia, and from an indigenous, non-Russian community. He has moved to Novosibirsk in search of employment and is doing well at his factory, has a girlfriend, is moving quickly up the housing ladder, is all set fair for an accomplished, settled, ordinary life but all is not well. His uncle has just died, back in his home village, not a man he was close to, but it has disturbed him. It is has disturbed him sufficiently to warrant psychiatric attention. Why?

His uncle, it turns out, was a shaman, perceived as full of power, necessary to his community as healer and guide, but also an outsider, kept at one remove. Now it is revealed he has imparted his gift to his nephew, who 'condemned' has been completely th…