Friday, November 09, 2012

Writers on the Edge

Once in a while we come across books which broaden our view of problems, delivering insight that makes the foundation for finding effective solutions. Writers on the Edge (Modern History Press, 2012), edited by Diana M. Raab and James Brown, is such a book dealing with the widely prevalent problems of addiction and dependency. In this anthology, twenty-two writers speak about addiction and its impact on personal – physical and psychological – as well as social life of people.  

Jerry Stahl in his foreword to the book explains the often confused meaning of the “edge”, saying that the “edge” actually is in the middle—i.e., when you are in the middle of turmoil, it is the stage often mistakenly, or for sake of verbal fashion, termed as the “edge”. This point is illustrated by the mostly poignant voices of the authors included in Writers on the Edge. Their memoirs, essays, and poems open to readers the journey through addiction, showing the gradual, often semi-intentional slipping into dependency on a substance, habit, or lifestyle that would ultimately stifle their growth as a person—sometimes leading to active suicide attempts. Unlike blaming it all on the object of addiction, the self-conscious writings here attempt to show the crevices in one’s own personality and integrity through which the desperate need for clinging to something oozes inside one’s being.

Individual pieces of writing in this book are brilliant and complete. Many of these writings are painfully honest and more than a few get the reader to a point of tenderness where the story of the writer, with all its power, replaces the reader’s surroundings. The insights vary from the angle(s) the writers take to explore the problem of addiction and dependency – ranging from Chase Twichell’s cuttingly thoughtful “eyes behind the eyes” element of one’s self to Frederick and Steven Barthelme’s grasping picture of the psychology of gambling, and Anna David’s dreaded “beep” of failure in creative expression leading to self-destructiveness.   

Writers on the Edge is ultimately a book of hope, showing how people losing themselves to the shady grounds of addiction do always have the choice to take control and switch their direction to arrive at healthy, positive living. This is not a “how to” guide on taking a U-turn from a difficult situation but a personal journey of people who made it away from the “edge” by existential choice and self-realization; so why not anyone else?          

ISBN: 978-1615991082

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Black Cow

Admit it or not, modern urban life has stresses that keep piling up on the middle class workers till life reaches a breaking point. One big, visible indicator of such a situation is loss of peace and relationships getting vulnerable to the point of breaking down. Australian author Magdalena Ball explores this issue in her latest novel Black Cow (Bewrite Books, 2012) through the story of a James and Freya, a married couple living in Sydney and increasingly feeling the pressure of work and home responsibilities hammering on their marriage and sanity.

While Magdalena Ball’s earlier novel Sleep beforeEvening was focused more on personal journey of a teenager through the trials of growing up, Black Cow is more about a conscious revision of values and improvement of lifestyle by letting go of the choices – place, work, and living – dragged along for meeting the demands of urban living, and returning instead to a simpler life in a rural community where surviving takes different tools and happiness has a more satisfying meaning.   

Perhaps the greatest significance of this book lies in showing the true nature of success – something that has been so pervasively confused with and thrust under earning more and keeping people pleased at the cost of one’s own happiness. Against the rampant consumerism, the protagonists of the novel decide to try life in sustainable terms, to be satisfied with what they got. In one of the chapters near the end of the novel, Freya makes the point expressly – “where you live doesn’t have to determine how you live.”

Black Cow is a novel which has food for thought for all people whose lives and relationships are stressed. This book can show them where their problem lies and how to solve it best.

ISBN: 978-1927086469

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Out of Darkness: From Turmoil to Transformation

If you are one of those searching for the true meaning of happiness, one book you must not miss reading is Steve Taylor’s Out of the Darkness (Hay House, 2011). This book brings clarity and understanding to our otherwise misunderstood ideal of happiness, looking at the concept of happiness from a psycho-spiritual angle.

Taylor, a psychology lecturer in Britain and author of the best-selling book Waking from Sleep, has included in his book true studies of people, some of them widely known for their excellent work or achievements, showing their transformation to a state of peace and positivity after experiencing trauma or turmoil in their lives. These “shifters”—as termed in the book—changed for good, no more taking life for granted but valuing each moment of it as a joy in itself. Whether it was some terrifying physical accident, intense emotional crisis, or a close encounter with death, the trial in life paradoxically worked wonders for the shifters, whose entire perception of everyday life and personal involvement in its activities derived new meaning—a state of deep satisfaction and harmony with all that is there.

What precisely could cause such bliss is explained by the author in terms of our psychological structure. The book explores the role of ego in human perception and attitude. Ego is held at the core of the quest for doing more, going for the mundane, and to have more than is there already—leading us to unfulfilling, presumed points of happiness. But after the sufferings or coming face to face with death, the ego is beaten down and its shell of possession around our mind is broken, liberating the inner self to true happiness and fresh appreciation of life.

Out of the Darkness has many important lessons for its readers and answers to many important questions, including but not limited to:

 Difference between religious conversion and spiritual transformation
 Breaking attachments for attaining happiness
 Psychotic states versus higher states of consciousness
 Spirituality after substance abuse
 Work, relationships, and spirituality
 Freedom and happiness

Steve Taylor’s book is inspirational, informative, and full of hope. In our times when each day comes to millions as a challenge to make more, Out of the Darkness shows what it really means to make the most of our lives each moment. This book is without question a must-read for everyone.

Amazon Link:

Author website: