The Joy & Terror of having your Book reviewed

Thousands of books are published each month so getting your book reviewed at all is worthy of popping the champagne cork.

Seeing a review of The Sunday Story Club (written with co-author Doris Brett) in The Age & SMH on Saturday was exciting. Then came the terror. WHAT WILL THEY SAY?

I read the review holding my breath. Then I had to read it again because I was too terrified for the words to register.

Hallelujah! The short review (below) by Fiona Capp was terrific. I could breathe again.

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Sharing the Magic of Running A Salon

When we, Doris and Kerry, ran our first salon, 12 women who had not met before sat in Doris’s lounge room looking at one another. We wondered if strangers would talk. Well, they do with the right questions. Not only strangers but also long term friends have been amazed to hear stories told by someone so close to them that they have never heard before.

We wanted to share the astounding experience of the salon so we wrote THE SUNDAY STORY CLUB so others can discover this magic running their own salon.

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If you learn how to die, you’ll learn how to live

Sibylesque Being Mortal quote

BEING MORTAL: Medicine and What Matters in the End

By Atul Gawande 

Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2014.

Review by Kerry Cue

Atul Gawande

Atul Gawande

The reason this book is so meaningful, so compelling and why it ranks as a rare must-read is because, in telling the story of how to die a good death, it slowly addresses an equally important question namely ‘how  are we to live a good and meaningful life?’

Sibylesque The three fates

Atul Gawande, surgeon and writer for The New Yorker, dreams of new ways of caring for the frail and old. He questions the bureaucratic nature of aged care institutions where the elderly are kept ‘safe’, but hardly ‘alive’. And he rails against the invasive, painful and ultimately futile medical procedures inflicted on the dying. Yet this book is no dry academic tome. Gawande tells the storxy of dying and death of his father, also a surgeon, from first discovering the tumor in the spinal column, through the family’s struggling with medical options – operate? His father might become a quadriplegic. Don’t operate, he may become a quadriplegic! – to his father’s final days.

There is one strong and clear message from this thoughtful exploration of the end stage. Patients could have good days even when dying. But to achieve this goal they must be asked, or think about, at least, ‘what are your greatest fears?’ and ‘what are your current goals?’ Simple questions but from the answers patients discover how they are to live in their final days and, eventually, die.

Gawande has managed to take the fear away from our modern, Western view of dying, which, in many aspects involves, an impersonal, sterile, ICU bed intubated with a tube down the throat and a total loss of control. Dying need not be like this. Gawande shows how the human spirit can flourish and life can be fully lived to the very end.

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Photo source: Unsourced book review blog, Tapestry held in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

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Travels with Epicurus: A Journey to a Greek Island in search of a fulfilled life

Sibylesque Epicurus Quote

REVIEW by Helen Elliot

Travels with EpicurusTravels With Epicurus

Daniel Klein

Text Publishing, 2013

Daniel Klein’s dentist told him that his teeth needed seeing to. A year of visits; some seeing to. Not to speak of the money involved. Klein, an American, a professional philosopher, academic and writer started ruminating (on his teeth).

He was seventy-three, his life was sweet , or sweet enough as it was. Going for the expensive teeth meant that other things in his life wouldn’t happen and at his age time was not infinite. So what if the alternative teeth, a mouth full of moveable clackers, gave him the slightly goofy smile of an old man. He was an old man. And why was he being made to feel there was something wrong with that? Why is old age seen as a condition and not accepted as a “stage of life”?

StairsKlein’s decision not to have his teeth done was one of a series of deliberate moves as he tried to free himself from the striving of the Forever Young. Who isn’t aware of it in their own lives? Klein defines that terror we have of just letting go and being who we might be at a certain stage in life. Life might be about the journey but sometimes there is arrival and that, too, can be savoured. Klein writes of the joy of play, of rolling around the floor with his dog, of playing patiently with grandchildren, of the pleasure of having friends because you like them just for who they are, not what they might do for you. He also suggests that it is possible to put aside the need to make a permanent mark on the world. He writes about the pleasures of reflection on a well- lived life in a laidback fashion despite drawing on the complex ideas of Sartre and Kant as well as his favourite Greek philosophers. Epicurus who talked about “a life well-lived.” Is his favourite.

DanielKlein-credit-BillHughes_regularKlein wrote this book when he returned to the Greek Island he lived-on for a year when he was young. He took a swag of useful books but he also observed and talked with the people on the island, noting how their simple lives reflected acceptance of every stage of life. His view of the Greek life is romanticized and there is a paradox that a man who advocates not striving finds it necessary to write another book but this book is easily the best book I have read about taking life as it comes, about the value of friendship and of allowing yourself to be who you are at this time in a well-lived life.

Sibylesque Sibyl Approved Maroon

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Helen Elliot 2Helen Elliott is a thoughtful and analytical reader, informed and soulful writer and unyielding literary critic for many Australian newspapers. She is also a dedicated gardener.

Photo Source: Stairs marksinthemargin blog.

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