Friday, September 04, 2015

"Creatures of a Day"

Almost always concerned about running out of books to read, small inventories are often built.  One espionage book away from reading "Being Mortal", commented on here almost two weeks ago, I reached into the serious pile and picked up "Creatures of a Day" by Irvin D. Yalom.  The book had been ordered in a search to determine if Yalom was still alive, still practicing, and still writing.  Yes on all counts, and at 81 he had just published a new set of stories related to his psychiatry practice and his patients, all carefully disguised and also done with their permission.

Two of his books with the same format as this collection had been read here but not in the recent past. "When Nietzsche Wept", his great 1992 novel, had been read more than 15 years ago and remains on any top list of books that could be created here.

There could hardly be a better follow up to "Being Mortal" than "Creatures of the Day", if one's mood can take it.  His writing style in this type of non-fiction is conversational and few words seem wasted.  Yalom has always been focused on existential therapy that looks at meaning and purpose in life, and now much more clearly the inevitable end.  At 81, he sees life through the prism of his age. The stories are each different and interesting, but the search remains the same if perhaps more immediate and vivid than in the past. This relatively short book was worthwhile and somehow for the most part entertaining.

Being short, that quickly led to a next book and after a brief flirt with Jonathan Franzen's new book "Purity",  Yalom's one other novel, "The Schopenhauer Cure" then took center stage.  Obsessional reading sometimes works, and this book almost immediately entranced.  How can a world famous Stanford professor emeritus of psychiatry have written novels the are compelling and have hooks at the end of most chapters which make stopping to fix dinner hard to do.  This book was published in 2005 and much more reading of this lengthy book is looked forward to, so far with pen in hand.  It probably will not match up to "When Nietzsche Wept", what could, but that is yet to be seen.

Surely "Purity" will be returned to soon.  Franzen's style requires, at least here, uninterrupted periods of significant reading, at least at the beginning.  That will happen, but not at the moment.

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