Siddhartha is the fictitious biography of a man who shares a name, and temporal-spatial proximity, with the Buddha, and who echoes many notes of the Buddha’s development. This spiritual journey into the self unfolds in rolling lyrical language, develops psychological insights in vivid imagery, and reconciles the cacophonous conflict between the worldly and the spiritual in a symphony of joy. Siddhartha is most memorable for its portrait of its protagonist: who combines amiability with an openness to endless change, and becomes a role-model for spiritual seekers everywhere.
Group Psychology summarises the existing research, and offers the rudiments of a unifying theoretical framework: based on the ego-related processes of suggestibility and object cathexis. In the twin human drives of libido, and of identification with an external object, Freud locates the building-blocks for group psychology. A century on, Freud’s monograph remains a useful tool to understand phenomena of mob behaviour: the preponderance of primitive emotions, the suspension of self-interest, and the moral lows and highs between which mob behaviour often swings.
Inspired by real-life events, In Dubious Battle is a vivid behind-the-scenes portrait of an agricultural strike during the Great Depression. Ingénue Jim joins up with seasoned communist agitator Mac to organise migrant labourers striking for a living age. Good intentions miscarry, priorities are tested, and the mob rises and wavers in this gripping human drama.
Short story “Fault” published in Commuter Lit. This story in five acts, narrated in alternative scenes by the two protagonists, examines exploitation and unassertiveness within the unstructured environment of a PhD in an India institute, and asks: Whose fault is this?
Howards End is a novel of ideas, an experiment in reconciling idealism and pragmatism via Forster’s panacea: “personal relations.” Written under the shadow of the Great War, the novel is an allegorical plea for peace between Germany and Britain: a peace based on mutual compromise and humility, and the surrendering of fatal ambitions. Howards End analyses a Britain undergoing rapid economic change and social fragmentation: with cars racing across country roads, but social mores and sexual double standards stuck in the last century. Forster offers compelling interior portraits of its protagonists, Meg and Helen Schlegel, and of a handful of secondary characters across the social spectrum. While the plot is problematic, and the resolution rushed, the novel’s poetic philosophical and psychological speculations remain with the reader long afterwards.
A Psychological Analysis of Adolf Hitler is of historic value to students of personality and of psychoanalysis. Historians have questioned the validity of its sources; the contemporary reader will be amused by the explicit focus on psychosexual development; several of the report’s conclusions are dubious at best; its terminology varies widely from those of contemporary psychopathology. Nonetheless, the Analysis offers plausible reconstructions of Hitler’s history and self-image, and constitutes an imaginative reconstruction of Hitler’s psychological economy.
This monumental tome doesn’t just document the rise of the Nazis and the lifespan of the Third Reich – it also traces the roots of Nazism deep in German history. With meticulous research and mostly able narrative, Shirer offers compelling portraits of Hitler and his closest associates – from the competent and passionate Goebbels, to the vain and bungling Ribbentrop. Notwithstanding frequent back-and-forths in time, a prejudice against German culture as exceptionally repressive, and pejoratives typical of the time but nonetheless distracting to a contemporary reader – this is an impressive work of scholarship, accessible to a lay audience, and a comprehensive introduction to the Third Reich.
Hoffman’s memoirs offer an entertaining glimpse at life in the Nazi inner circle, and at Hitler himself. A light, brisk, anecdotal narrative chronicles Hoffman’s own artistic career, and the course of his professional relationship and personal friendship with Hitler. This modest, self-avowedly apolitical work nevertheless offers some key insights into Hitler and his associates, and makes for entertaining light reading.
What if Adolf Hitler came back to life in contemporary Germany? How would he go about getting a platform to work his way back to power? *Look Who’s Back* captures Hitler’s single-minded drive and prosy voice to present us with a personable if misguided leader. Vermes analyses the dynamics of profit-driven viewer-hungry media, and of a politically disenfranchised populace, in the (re)making of an extremist.
A flash story about the promises we make ourselves.
A flash story about the deracinated, isolated contemporary worker struggling to keep track of the hours and the seasons.
*A Creek Named Sorrow* is a competently narrated crime/mystery novel that juxtaposes the beauty of a rural New England landscape with human crime and misery. But a dizzying cast of mostly undeveloped characters, and a striking lack of sympathy for/insight into its criminal crharacters, make this novel a less-than-satisfying read.
*Tiny Novels In A Flash: 30 Short-Short Stories* delivers maximum story in minimum word-count. This book is a rainbow collection of characters and moods. Its themes range from comedy through life-lesson through love and loss. Its settings span the American landscape; most of the stories are contemporary; a few are set at various key moments in U.S. history. Each of these 30 standalone stories is a delectable read for a few spare minutes. Together, they demonstrate an impressive range from this debut author.
This short memoir by a fellow vagrant from Hitler’s prewar homeless days in Vienna provides insights into how early experiences with destitution and hopelessness shaped a tyrant.
Cancel Culture displaces individual responsibility, creates a hollow sense of satisfaction, and fails to resolve systemic injustice.
Kubizek’s memoir constitutes one of the few reliable sources of Hitler’s years in Linz, and in Vienna before penury made Hitler homeless. Kubizek’s account is sympathetic but balanced. Combining character analysis with narrative of shared ideas and adventures, it provdes not only insights into the gestation of a tyrant — but a delightful read.
Political Correctness solves nothing, and sidesteps the hard work of institutional reform. Language reflects material circumstances – and it is material, economic injustice that must remain our focus. Banning words is high-profile, low-impact virtue-signalling that polarises groups and forbids honest dialogue.
*Our Mutual Friend*, Dickens’s last finished novel, revives many familiar Dickens tropes, but unites them with lively social satire, a spare cast (by Dickens’s standard), and a mostly sound narrative. With characteristic ease, *Friend* traverses the socioeconomic spectrum from low to high. Its settings range from the grotesque and morbid, to scenes of fevered fancy and domestic bliss. *Friend*’s social satire is caustic as always. *Friend* is Dickens at his acme.
Image credit The best writing advice I’ve received, scattered over twelve years, was from three people, none of them a writer. # I was 20, and struggling to make my writing work. I thought I just had to produce more. More words. More stories. A friend and I were moon-gazing. She remarked that meditating helped […]
“My book has no thesis, and any conclusions to be found in it were reached only during the writing, perhaps the most meaningful being that Hitler was far more complex and contradictory than I had imagined. ‘The greatest saints,’ observes one of Graham Greene’s characters, ‘Have been men with a more than normal capacity for evil, and the most vicious men have sometimes narrowly evaded sanctity.’ Deprived of heaven, Adolf Hitler chose hell – if, indeed, he knew the difference between the two.”
Blue Pepper Literary Magazine published my flash play “Trio.” Image Credit *** ETHEL: You didn’t let me go last year. Now, I’m going. #3: Look what she’s packing. Two bits of string – to wit, a bikini. HANNAH: That’d look lovely on you, darling. It’s just your colour – #3: That bulge-eyed Mr. Geil is […]
Meet Cute Press republished my flash story “Holiday,” previously published in The Bookends Review. Image credit *** “Is it really possible to stay awake for four days?” said Jaya. “Will we even enjoy it?” Four days. That’s all we had. Two of which we’d spend in the train, coming and going. I decided: we mustn’t […]
“Nothing in the world is meaningless,” Wilde declares, “And sorrow least of all.” Wilde is writing De Profundis in his second year in prison. His first year was full of physical illness, bitterness, and cynicism. Wilde’s embrace of suffering now is motivated not by pessimism but, on the contrary, by self-love.
Joyce reputedly said that if Dublin were razed, it could be recreated from his descriptions of it in Ulysses. Dickens could’ve made the same claim regarding London and Sketches. Here, London emerges into the foreground as the main character. Dickens develops the city’s neighbourhoods, times-of-day, and inhabitants into the portrait of a vibrant city. It is a portrait monumentally detailed, full of humour and colour.
*Trust Exercise* squanders the potential of Part One’s promising narrative about ambition, love, and sexual power politics with Part Two’s dreary postmodern writerly devices.
*Waiting for Godot* and *Endgame* are pure. Pure existential angst. Their plots are constructed, with extravagant meticulousness, out of nothing. Their characters discuss, painstakingly, nothing. Meaninglessness saturates these short plays’ atmosphere: leaving the reader airless, suffocating. These plays are twin peaks of artistic achievement – and are deeply disturbing.
*Poetics* is a bite-sized treatise combining commentary on the evolution of literary genres with still-relevant advice to writers on how to develop characters, construct a good plot, and evoke appropriate emotions in the reader.
Today I interview Ana Vidosavljevic about authoring and publishing her short story memoir collection, Flower Thieves.
Flower Thieves is a promising debut by a writer with an eye for character, a gentle humour, and a gift for simplicity.
In this long essay, Freud examines the puzzling phenomenon of individuals in civilised societies pointing to civilisation as the root of all evil. If you want to discover the meticulous, erudite, prescient scientist behind the caricature that Freud has become in contemporary culture – this succinct, clearly-reasoned analysis marrying history and psychology is a good starting-point.
“Existing meanings are not ours to command. When we use a language, we inherit & reproduce, usually unintentionally, the language’s cultural legacy & moral attitudes… This is the way in which language as it exists necessarily imposes limits on thought.”
Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat a key book, arguing that advances in communication technology, transportation, supply chain management, & geopolitics – have empowered people across geographical & class boundaries to educate themselves, find or create fulfilling work, run their own businesses, recruit teams & supplies across boundaries, & keep learning new skills.
I’ve featured Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth here before. I’ll keep featuring it. It changed my life. BM analyses how the pursuit of a standardised, impossible, high-maintenance physical beauty claims women’s time, money, health, sanity, & humanity. It’s a book every man & woman should read: it’s incisive about the ways in which advertising, industry, commerce, popular culture (inc. films & women’s magazines & porn), & even the healthcare industry collude to create a reality where health & happiness become almost impossible for millions of educated, sane citizens. (This is also why I repeatedly feature works on the Third Reich, inc. on & by Nazi leaders.)
Inside a tranquil old stone temple, the journey to recovery from an eating disorder begins.
One of my favourite sonnets provides, near the end of the cycle, a respite from the intense emotions. Here, the poet ceases his pleading, & attempts a bargain. His Dark Lady, weary of her Will, is pursuing other romantic/sexual conquests. But her Will wants her back at any cost. If she’d only come back & soothe him – him, whom she’s already conquered – then he’d give her his blessing to stride forth & make other conquests:
Read Cratylus for an entertaining attack on postmodernism, for insightful analyses of the relationship b/w language and reality, b/w linguistics & natural history – & for Soc’s usual pragmatic axioms: “Everyone should expend his chief thought and attention on the consideration his *first principles* – are they rightly laid down? And when he has duly sifted them, the rest will follow.”
The Stranger manages to disorient us, and dislocate our own comfortable ideas about what it means to live a human life. It’s not a comfortable book – but, like the best existentialist literature, it’s a book that may enable us to search our own souls, and see in ourselves a brother or a sister to criminals and to saints. It’s a book that may empower us to face the essential meaninglessness of life: in order to create meaning for ourselves.
Some time ago, I read Ana’s articles at The Curious Reader, a magazine we both write for. I went on to discover her other writing, then her website. I was struck by her honest, fresh writing; by the novelty and freshness of her prose; and by her imaginative and accessible stories for children. I got to read […]
Image: Paul Cezanne’s *Pyramid of Skulls* by J. L. Moultrie Today I’m pleased to introduce my dear friend and colleague, poet and writer J. L. Moultrie. I’ve known J. L. just a few months, and we’ve never met in person. But through his writing, and through a long and rich series of emails, I’ve come […]
Volume Three of Fearsome Critters is out, with my short story “Sanctuary.” Set on a solo weekend trip to Benaras, “Sanctuary” fictionalises a friend’s psychoglocial journey. A journey of healing from trauma, rediscovering oneself through reflection (with aid from psychedelics), and recovering one’s faith in people and purpose in life.
After uny exams in north India, a young couple takes their first trip together. Impeding separation looms over them, all but inevitable. Sarthak and Jaya have different attitudes to fate. When an eventuality is all but certain — is it wiser to yield, or to fight it anyway?
In this magic realist flash story published at Dove Tales: Gardens in the Desert, wildflowers learn about cooperation. The hard way,