Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways's Reviews > The Book of Illusions

The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster
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Mar 07, 14

Read in January, 2003

Rating: one furious, disgusted star of however many stars there are in a galaxy

I've never been fond of pompous writing, the kind that checks its look in the mirror of acclaim and piles on the self-satisfied smirking smugness that makes me want to torch all the MFA schools I can reach.

My review, which I've moved to my blog, says that and more. Apparently the hoi polloi slithering in from the Internet's more sanctimonious quarters don't agree with me, therefore I must be wrong.
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 112) (112 new)


message 1: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I don't know what else to say besides "thank you" for this review.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Stephen wrote: "I don't know what else to say besides "thank you" for this review."

Whatever response I expected to this ranting scream of fury, it sure as hell wasn't "thank you"! If it's touched you, I hope it was in a positive way...though honestly I can't see how...I get so furiously angry when I see solipsism celebrated in art. It Is Not Okay To Isolate Yourself!

Hmmm. No wonder I found Goethe's Werther such a pill.

Anyway, you're welcome.


message 3: by Trudi (new)

Trudi Very honest and very raw review sir. Grief has made me angry and unsympathetic, but as you say, life must go on, and whining and puling about our tragedies gets one nowhere. The answer is ACTION, even though it may take some time to get to that point. Grief can be so isolating and defeating if you let it.


message 4: by Nancy (new)

Nancy 1992 was a bad year for me too, Richard. I lost my best friend, Mark, to AIDS on Valentine's Day of 1992 at the age of 36. He was as close to me as my own brother. Please excuse me while I go to the bathroom and cry.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Trudi wrote: "Very honest and very raw review sir. Grief has made me angry and unsympathetic, but as you say, life must go on, and whining and puling about our tragedies gets one nowhere. The answer is ACTION, e..."

Indeed indeed! Thanks for seeing the point.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Nancy wrote: "1992 was a bad year for me too, Richard. I lost my best friend, Mark, to AIDS on Valentine's Day of 1992 at the age of 36. He was as close to me as my own brother. Please excuse me while I go to the bathroom and cry."

Tissues are right here when you come out. {{{Nancy}}}


message 7: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 23, 2012 11:30AM) (new) - added it

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I enjoyed the review and largely, almost completely agree with the sentiment. I think the nastier part about mental illness though is that, by definition, it is what creates the space for the solipsism and lack of motivation to remedy the problem. But at the same time, people under that sort of spell need people to jostle with a new outside perspective and into the motivation to get the help they need with a big ol' SHUT THE FUCK UP AND MOVE ON. So I agree with you, but just wanted to say that sometimes it's easier said than done for people suffering from serious, clinical depression to just pull themselves up by their bootstraps.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways It isn't easy for anyone. Every single adult in my family has entered his or her forties in a clinical depression. Some sought, and got, help of all sorts...spiritual, psychological, pharmacological...whatever was available then. Others did not, and became intolerable whiners.

Sorry. It's Too Hard doesn't win any sympathy points, nor does "it didn't work"...then do something else!...fix it, there's help upon help after help, keep trying until you've made it and yes, you will too make it, and then BELT UP about it.

This isn't meant to be about schizophrenia or the other psychotic disorders, of course, as those are totally different in their treatment and prognosis.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio There are different levels and prognoses and diagnoses of depression, I'm sure you know. I think what you're saying applies to the vast majority, but I still have a certain degree of real sympathy for people who struggle with it for long stretches of years, various earnest attempts at treatment (from every med and therapy under the sun, even ECT) and still remain miserable and off themselves. These are the minority, but they're still real cases that I think have more to do with neurobiology than character flaw. I certainly would err on the side of believing that people just need to take personal responsibility in most situations and not look for scapegoats, etc, but it's not always that cut and dried, at least from my admittedly more limited (in terms of years on the planet and wisdom-accumulation) viewpoint. I guess I just find it all fascinating stuff to me. Again, I really enjoyed your review and how it's sparked these couple of thoughts. (Also, I have no experience with Auster, so I'm not grinding any axe there by very mildly raising an alternative view and considerations of clinical depression, personal responsibility, etc.)


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio One of my favorite jokes is from David Cross who talks about dealing with depression over the years only to discover that all that was wrong the whole time was that he had a pebble in his shoe. His advice to fellow depressives was simply "So, ya know, check your shoes is all I'm sayin'." So I totally get where your coming from, but also wonder sometimes if certain people are just beyond all the many helping hands of treatment. It's an unnerving thought, but one that crosses my mind sometimes. Sorry for rambling so much in your thread, my keyboard got away from me for a bit.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Oh gosh no! I don't for an instant equate depression and its horrors with character flaws...depression, the illness depression, is a serious health issue. What galls me is the people who make little or no effort to find the help available, and the policymakers in government and health care who make that help so often inaccessible should be horsewhipped in the town square and then left in the stocks until their eyes bleed.

It's not the ILLNESS, it's the ATTITUDE of "I can't" that I single out for opprobrium. Yeah yeah yeah...you can too. Get up and do it. Of course it's hard. Do it anyway. Call a friend, a sibling, a lover, 911...get someone to pick you up if your body won't obey you. Someone will, because there is someone whose job it is to help you.

Yes, it's an interesting discussion. And it's with sadness that I acknowledge that some people...just...can't. So intensely sad, that. Sometimes the world wins.


Joshua Nomen-Mutatio Richard wrote: "Oh gosh no! I don't for an instant equate depression and its horrors with character flaws...depression, the illness depression, is a serious health issue. What galls me is the people who make littl..."

I see. I think we're in total agreement then. Nice to make your acquaintance with this rather unorthodox icebreaker!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Taaa-daaa! The magic of the Interwebs!


message 14: by TK421 (new)

TK421 now that is a 1 star review. well done.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Thanks, Gavin...I think. My BS tolerance has never been high.


Steve Sckenda Your helping others who were dying reminded me of my beautiful hero, Walt Whitman. He spent all his free time visiting the hospitals-- the sick, the maimed and the dying during the Civil War. He bought them nuts, wrote/read letters for/to them. He held their hands and whispered to them as they died. He did something as you did to channel the pain into energy.


message 17: by Jason (new)

Jason Koivu Raw and beautiful. Thanks for that, Richard.


message 18: by Mike (new)

Mike Beautifully written, an eloquent personal reflection on on how we respond to a work of literature. I've not read Auster. After reading your review I searched out the novel and read a summary of the plot. That alone made your review all the more compelling. Thank you for your powerful expression of living outside one's self. Carry it on.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Steve wrote: "Your helping others who were dying reminded me of my beautiful hero, Walt Whitman. He spent all his free time visiting the hospitals-- the sick, the maimed and the dying during the Civil War. He bo..."

What a lovely compliment, Steve, to be likened to Whitman. How humbling to occupy even mental space with one of the great souls our planet has produced. Thanks.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Jason wrote: "Raw and beautiful. Thanks for that, Richard."

Thank you kindly, Jason, and I'm glad you saw it in a favorable light.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Moon wrote: "Thanks for sharing such a personal experience Richard. I'm sure someone out that may be going through a similar experience and will be inspired by it. Great review."

Thanks, Moon. It's always my hope someone will read something I've put out there and find something they need in it.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Mike wrote: "Beautifully written, an eloquent personal reflection on on how we respond to a work of literature. I've not read Auster. After reading your review I searched out the novel and read a summary of t..."

I think you can see I'm no booster of his...I won't encourage you to try it out. Thanks for your lovely words!


Steve Sckenda Richard wrote: "Steve wrote: "Your helping others who were dying reminded me of my beautiful hero, Walt Whitman. He spent all his free time visiting the hospitals-- the sick, the maimed and the dying during the Ci..."

You are a beautiful person, Richard. You are brilliant and intense. You have suffered, and your scars and your shriven hands make you even more beautiful. Peace.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Steve wrote: "You are a beautiful person, Richard. You are brilliant and intense. You have suffered, and your scars and your shriven hands make you even more beautiful. Peace."

*blush*

Praise far beyond my just deserts. (But don't stop!) :-P


message 25: by Katy (new)

Katy An amazing review, Richard. This bit here ...
I saw a few mothers come to their sons' bedsides to excoriate them one last time for being queer and so embarrassing the church, the family, god.
*sigh* I can so see my family doing that sort of shit. It infuriates me. You are supposed to love your family members unconditionally. If you believe in God, you are supposed to love your neighbors. Why does this not extend to family? Why does this not extend to people you think "done wrong"? It's ridiculous, it's hypocritical, and I don't blame you a single iota for your fury. I'm infuriated, too.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Thanks, Katy. Funny thing is I get madder as the years roll on, not more mellow. A parent rejecting a child is OUT.RAGE.OUS. to me. My daughter could kill her husband and kids, set her house on fire, and come lookin' for me and I'd still be her pops. Mad at her, and scared of her. But reject her, say "you're no child of mine"? NEVER.


message 27: by Katy (new)

Katy Richard wrote: "Thanks, Katy. Funny thing is I get madder as the years roll on, not more mellow. A parent rejecting a child is OUT.RAGE.OUS. to me. My daughter could kill her husband and kids, set her house on fir..."

Wish you were my dad... If I were to actually tell him about some of my lifestyle choices, I would literally fear for my life. He's very old-school, Old Testament style...

Then again, you're a touch too young to be my dad, I think. Well, not to say you absolutely couldn't be, but it'd have been a young beginning to procreation... :-)


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Heh, I started at 19, too damned young but there you are.


message 29: by Katy (new)

Katy Richard wrote: "Heh, I started at 19, too damned young but there you are."

Well, my modern standards, maybe. By the standards of a couple hundred years ago, you waited way too long... :-)


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways My response to the lifestyle choice line of reasoning has always been to say, "yeah, so?" Lots of silence. "But...but...it's wrong and immoral!" *snort* "So it's wrong and immoral to love someone of the same gender and not wrong and immoral to judge them, despite 'judge not lest ye be judged,' have I got that right?"

There is only the trite and tired and demonstrably wrong Leviticus/Deuteronomy argument after that, and I can beat that one down easy.


message 31: by Frances (new)

Frances Richard wrote: "Thanks, Katy. Funny thing is I get madder as the years roll on, not more mellow. A parent rejecting a child is OUT.RAGE.OUS. to me. My daughter could kill her husband and kids, set her house on fir..."

Dearest Richard, per our recent discussion, thoughts of my son come with every heartbeat. 1M% support ALWAYS.NO.MATTER.WHAT. As a wise wise man once told me, "I spend a lot of time saying nothing. Bad for blood pressure and ulcers, good for lovingkindness.


message 32: by Katy (new)

Katy Well, truth to be it's not a "choice", it's just a lifestyle; no GLBTQ person chooses to be that way, it's just the way you're born. When I mention "choices" in my own context, I'm referring to my choices in religion, but it would have taken a long time to type all that out... LOL My dad tried to pull the Leviticus thing on me once about my tattoos. I'm waiting for him to do it again, 'cause I have a response now. "Yeah, okay, so why do you trim the hair on the side of your head and refuse to grow a beard? Those are also requirements, if you want to be technical..."


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Frances wrote: "Richard wrote: "Thanks, Katy. Funny thing is I get madder as the years roll on, not more mellow. A parent rejecting a child is OUT.RAGE.OUS. to me. My daughter could kill her husband and kids, set ..."

See? Proof, Frances, that even a stopped clock is right twice a day!


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Katy wrote: "Well, truth to be it's not a "choice", it's just a lifestyle; no GLBTQ person chooses to be that way, it's just the way you're born. When I mention "choices" in my own context, I'm referring to my..."

It's not technical, though, it's the heart of these dickcheese-lickers' argument. If your dad is a fundy, he needs to be hit hard with every single way he and his cronies fail to live up to the laws they're citing. WHen they balk and say they don't have to live up to those, they're invalidating their basis for argument and they know it.

Loathsome people, cristians.


message 35: by Katy (new)

Katy Yeah, I do agree, Richard, although my dad is at least not as bad as those Westboro bastards...


message 36: by Steven (new)

Steven SO much respect for you, sir. You are an inspiration to me, not only as a gay man and as a reader, but as a kind and passionate human being.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Steven wrote: "SO much respect for you, sir. You are an inspiration to me, not only as a gay man and as a reader, but as a kind and passionate human being."

How very kind of you. I certainly appreciate the compliments, though I suspect I'm not deserving of such admiring assessments of my character.


message 38: by Steven (new)

Steven I've read many of your reviews. You're a good guy ;)


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Steven wrote: "I've read many of your reviews. You're a good guy ;)"

Thousands would disagree. Talk to my sisters. :-P


message 40: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Beautiful review Richard. You are amazing.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Tracy wrote: "Beautiful review Richard. You are amazing."

Why thank you! I appreciate the lovely compliment.


message 42: by j u l i o (new)

j  u  l  i  o ragey-richard deploys 'puling.' tactical threat assessment: RUN AWAY


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Good plan. Ragey Richard isn't a prisoner-taker.


message 44: by j u l i o (new)

j  u  l  i  o i am busy, richard. i do not have time to indulge your shameless flirting. perhaps later.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Poultry Munitions wrote: "i am busy, richard. i do not have time to indulge your shameless flirting. perhaps later."

Heh. As I'm off to sleep, *much* later.


message 46: by j u l i o (new)

j  u  l  i  o night-night, sensei.


message 47: by Kelly (new)

Kelly  Maybedog I thank you for your review, as well, for your honesty and unapologetic opinion. It's what I love about GR and what I hate about Those Who Must Not Be Named who do have a problem with it. I agree that whiners bug the crap out of me.

Richard said, It's not the ILLNESS, it's the ATTITUDE of "I can't" that I single out for opprobrium. Yeah yeah yeah...you can too. Get up and do it. Of course it's hard. Do it anyway. Call a friend, a sibling, a lover, 911...get someone to pick you up if your body won't obey you. Someone will, because there is someone whose job it is to help you."

I'm with you...mostly. I was first diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 8 years old after my mother couldn't deal with anymore and took me in (well before Prozac!) So yeah, I'm one of those lifers. I have tried every med out there. Some never work, some work sort of for awhile. I've been hospitalized several times, etc. But I am an optimist in life, easy going about everything except politics and social issues, and I have learned to take things with a grain of salt.

My mother is the opposite. She's always had mental health issues and has always been incredibly negative but for the past few years she just keeps saying she can't. She tries different meds but allegedly all of them have side effects she can't live with. She is incapable of having a good time and when I suggest something she could try, she always has a reason why it won't work. We are exactly who you are describing, I think.

EXCEPT when my meds are not working and something happens on top of that which would make anyone sad, I do get to the point I can't get out of bed. I can barely get up to go to the bathroom. It's not just mental, it's physical. I'm so exhausted I sleep almost all day. I'm too depressed to even attempt suicide.

I did promise my family and friends that if I ever feel suicidal I would call them. And I have kept that promise for almost ten years. So I do what I can. I am fortunate that I still have people in my life who are there for me. When I last attempted suicide (ten years ago), I was floored at how many people actually cared. I am very fortunate. But some people just don't have anyone to call. Sometimes people don't want to hear it because they don't know what to do.

Did you know that most suicide attempts occur after the person has hit rock bottom and starts to improve just a little? It's because at rock bottom, they can't function enough to do anything. Their brains often aren't functional enough to even think about solutions.

Anyway, I don't mind if you still feel the way you do at all. I know your heart is in the right place. I just wanted to present you with a slightly different perspective. I think you're great.


message 48: by Katy (new)

Katy I really have to agree with Kelly on everything she's said above. Sometimes there literally is NO ONE. One thing that a lot of depressed people do is to push everyone away, either deliberately, or because they have alienated them in one way or another. Or maybe someone has moved to where they are not near any family, or they don't go out much and don't have any friends... For instance, if something happened and I had to go somewhere very urgently, I'd be pretty much stuck if Dmitry weren't here with the car, 'cause there is no one I can call, even if I had a phone. The few people I tried to befriend one way or another disappeared as soon as I no longer worked with them, or attended events at which we would meet up. *shrug* But still, we all do the best we can.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Kelly and Katy, I don't for an instant dismiss the very real and extremely debilitating clinical depression that afflicts people...I am the son of a clinically depressed and mentally ill mother...but there are so so so so many people who *can* but *don't* help themselves! It's never fair to make sweeping judgments because, of course, one doesn't know what the other person is going through.

That doesn't keep me from identifying the acquired helplessness of some people as deserving of opprobrium.

One of my most terrifying experiences in life was being depressed and not wanting to save myself as I was falling in front of a subway train. Someone jostled me, I lost my balance and started to fall, and I couldn't think of a single reason to make the effort to save myself. A woman standing nearby grabbed my backpack and yanked me back. It was hard to thank her.

But for me, the episodes of depression have been triggered by life events and have responded to intervention in short order. Another example of how extremely fortunate I am! (I also lose weight easily. Don't hate me.)

Sending hugs and smooches to you both,
RMD


message 50: by Katy (new)

Katy Oh, Richard, I absolutely was aware of that. I've been keeping track, after all, and did not at all mean to seem like I was attacking you. You are very correct that there are some people who just seem to ignore all the help that's around them, throwing up their hands and saying, "There's nothing I can do." If you point out, "How about this, or that, or this?" it seems to actually make them angry. But that's also what I meant by the pushing people away thing. It's really a vicious circle, as you well know.

You are very fortunate to be easily treated. I usually need medicine to stay stable, although I've been doing okay this past year without it *crosses fingers*


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