Review: Worlds from the Word’s End by Joanna Walsh

“You will agree: had you always the right book to hand, oh what reading you would have done!”

It’s only fitting that right after I post my take on The Beautiful Book Covers Tag, I stumble across the striking cover for Worlds from the Word’s End, designed and illustrated by Roman Muradov:Worlds from the Word's End-- bookspoilsThe detailed art structure sets the tone for what to expect in Worlds from the Word’s End. A swift collection of short stories that (for the most) get straight to the point was exactly the kind of read I was seeking.

From a freewheeling story on cycling (and Freud), to a country in which words themselves fall out of fashion, to a bookshelf (‘Bookselves’) full of unread books coming to life to judge you.

“Something you never thought might happen: after a certain number of years the being who has read all these neglected books will step from your bookshelves, will sit down at your table (conveniently adjacent), will make a cup of coffee at the machine, having seen you use it so many times, especially when about to tackle a book, and will light a cigarette, insubstantial as steam, the odour of which will affect neither your carpets nor curtains. It will be the opposite of you, your inverse.”

Love of books is quietly present throughout the collection.

Another noteworthy story takes on the saying “Actions speak louder than words,” as language crumbles around them.

“You like women who are quiet? In the end it was not so difficult to let you go: you were only interested in the sound of your own voice. ”

The most memorable piece for me.

Also, this:

“I prefer Departures to Arrivals, by which time everything has already happened. Even as dawn approaches in long lozenges of broken light, Arrivals do not notice the beautiful station. They look down, headed for something known, for home, for bed. Of course some are met, but fewer than you would think, and they don’t stick around. Heroics are reserved for Departures: brave looks, last embraces, minutes slowed by kisses.”

But save for the two stories above that I enjoyed most, the nineteen tales in here are all over the place. The incoherent narrative (or lack thereof) became bothersome overtime, especially for the shorter pieces. They didn’t pack a punch and were remarkably mediocre, so much so that you’d forget what it was about the minute you moved on to the next piece.

Though I was looking for short stories that were quick and precise, Worlds from the Word’s End seemed to only deliver on the quick part.

Bottom line: I was drawn to the cover and that’s the best to have come out of this collection for me.

2.5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Worlds from the Word’s End, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

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Review: Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy by Irvin D. Yalom

I had originally started Irvin D. Yalom’s newest release Becoming Myself, where he mentioned this collection of stories which sounded more fitting because my attention span was slight at the time.

Love’s Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy offers a keen insight on ten patients, from all walks of life, who turned to therapy, “all ten were suffering the common problems of everyday life: loneliness, self-contempt, impotence, migraine headaches, sexual compulsivity, obesity, hypertension, grief, a consuming love obsession, mood swings, depression. Yet somehow (a “somehow” that unfolds differently in each story), therapy uncovered deep roots of these everyday problems—roots stretching down to the bedrock of existence.”

Though the problems may be considered “common problems of everyday life,” Love’s Executioner made them seem like anything but. Yalom writes his patients with the utmost respect and interest.

I’d like to mention in particular one story that started off the collection on a bang for me with Thelma, “a depressed, suicidal, seventy-year-old woman,” who for the past eight years “could not relinquish her obsessive love for a man thirty-five years younger.”

“Perhaps the function of the obsession was simply to provide intimacy: it bonded her to another—but not to a real person, to a fantasy.”

My attention was riveted to her. I went through a turmoil of emotions reading her story, and came out of it with a changed perspective of my own. It was such a wild ride that in the end I felt like both the doctor and the patient being treated. The longest piece, deservingly so.

“You are you, you have your own existence, you continue to be the person you are from moment to moment, from day to day. Basically your existence is impervious to the fleeting thoughts, to the electromagnetic ripples occurring in some unknown mind. Try to see that. All this power that Matthew has—you’ve given it to him—every bit of it!

“What goes on in another person’s mind, someone you never even see, who probably isn’t even aware of your existence, who is caught up in his own life struggles, doesn’t change the person you are.”

I was easily swept away into the pensive and therapeutic writing style. It offered an introspective look into moments not many of us get to see represented. The book also had many noteworthy lines that left an imprint on me, such as:

“You know, there is no one alive now who was grown-up when I was a child. So I, as a child, am dead. Some day soon, perhaps in forty years, there will be no one alive who has ever known me. That’s when I will be truly dead—when I exist in no one’s memory. I thought a lot about how someone very old is the last living individual to have known some person or cluster of people. When that old person dies, the whole cluster dies, too, vanishes from living memory. I wonder who that person will be for me. Whose death will make me truly dead?”

This precise piece of commentary struck me.

Speaking of which, this note on experiencing “love at first sight” was so satisfying to agree on: “You don’t know this person. In a Proustian way, you’ve packed this creature full of the attributes you so desire. You’ve fallen in love with your own creation.”

At the expanse of sounding a bit abrasive, this book was perfect for my nosy self that likes to hear personal stories without having to share something of myself in exchange. And though I did not agree with the tactics used in certain tales, I read on in fascination of the differing views of reality presented. Now, I can move on to Yalom’s newest release.

Oh, and one last thing I have to highlight upon ending my review, this piece on experiencing “crushes”:

“At a conference approximately two years prior to meeting Thelma, I had encountered a woman who subsequently invaded my mind, my thoughts, my dreams. Her image took up housekeeping in my mind and defied all my efforts to dislodge it. But, for a time, that was all right: I liked the obsession and savored it afresh again and again. A few weeks later, I went on a week’s vacation with my family to a beautiful Caribbean island. It was only after several days that I realized I was missing everything on the trip—the beauty of the beach, the lush and exotic vegetation, even the thrill of snorkeling and entering the underwater world. All this rich reality had been blotted out by my obsession. I had been absent. I had been encased in my mind, watching replays over and over again of the same and, by then, pointless fantasy. Anxious and thoroughly fed up with myself, I entered therapy (yet again), and after several hard months, my mind was my own again and I was able to return to the exciting business of experiencing my life as it was happening.”

4.5/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying Love’s Executioner, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!

Review: The Park Bench by Christophe Chabouté

The Park Bench is full of quiet, revealing, and intimate glances into every day moments, capturing clever little details in the background. Including: romantic couples both young and old, gossiping, people watching, and so much more. This silent graphic novel speaks volumes.

Marketing his English-language debut, The Park Bench is Chabouté’s beautiful and acclaimed story of a park bench and the lives it witnesses. At once intimate and universal, it is one of the most moving books you could hope to come across.
From its creation, to its witness to the fresh ardor of lovers, the drudgery of businessmen, the various hopes of the many who enter its orbit, the park bench weathers all seasons. Strangers meet at it for the first time. Paramours carve their initials into it. Old friends sit and chat upon it for hours. Others ignore the bench, or (attempt to) sleep on it at night, or simply anchor themselves on it and absorb the ebb and flow of the area and its people.

I’ve had my eyes on this particular graphic novel for ages, so when it finally arrived in the mail I took my sweet time perusing the book. Letting the story sit with me for a while was certainly a wise way to go about Chabouté’s work. Though, I do have to say that for that second half I couldn’t help but read through it in a whirlwind. For anyone who loves to be deeply involved in their own thoughts, The Park Bench (both the book and the object) is a must.

the park bench 3-- bookspoils

The above is a prime example of tiny details coming together to create a bigger picture.

the park bench 4-- bookspoils

the park bench 5-- bookspoilsNo words need to describe how the above page is utterly heartbreaking.the park bench 6-- bookspoils

ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: July 6th, 2017

4/5 stars

Note: I’m an Amazon Affiliate. If you’re interested in buying The Park Bench, just click on the image below to go through my link. I’ll make a small commission!