Physician, Heal Thyself

Although books have been an important part of my life, I have rarely used this blog for book reviews. (Oh, wait, make that never.) A couple of movies, and concerts, yes). So this new discovery, which I made by chance at a rummage sale, has to be momentous, to pioneer a new category.

It doesn’t seem like a momentous sort of book; just a novel about a lonely man. But it touched me in a deep place, so I want to talk about it before recycling it.

I went out of my way to find a book sale. English-language books in Thailand are a small niche of retail, rarely discounted. Mail order is prohibitively expensive. So when I see a juicy idea for a book, for the past few years, I’ve been getting it as an e-book. A little cheaper, certainly faster and easier, and it solves the problem aging eyes have with shrinking type. So my collection of great but unread books on my iPad has been growing, as it occurs to me, slowly, that I don’t like reading books on my screen. Something about the format has conditioned me, perhaps, to a shorter attention span.

So I resolved, recently, to seek out more hard-copy books. Usually, that means nonfiction (edgy science, sociology, ethnology), fantasy and science fiction, and an occasional masterpiece of brainy suspense. Almost never mainstream fiction. But this book caught my eye with a blurb that introduced the protagonist as an eccentric who prescribes books as medicine. I can relate to that! I’ve been formulating music as medicine for half my life. (Although, I have failed to inform many poeple of this. See HERE for details). Plus, he lives on a boat. I’m in.

In a way, a lot of the references are over my head. I don’t have enough background in literature to appreciate the fine points of why a particular book is prescribed for a particular malady. But just the idea of recognizing that malady of the soul, and understanding that it can be addressed with some emotionally-engaging fiction, resonates deeply with me.

The bit of engagement that resonance generated was nearly eclipsed by my admiration for the author’s (and her translator’s!) metaphorical zingers, like this description of a woman’s work situation:

But that was not the ultimate reason that I have come to regard this book as a treasure. That came much more slowly, as the characters develop, and the emotionally-frozen “M. Perdu” (the Lost man), and his likewise emotionally-damaged buddies, take on the challenge of coming back to life, and learning to love again.

No literary erudition needed. My heart is there, now.


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