Monday, September 28, 2009


Translated by Stephen Mitchell (2006)
From Amazon: The acclaimed translator of the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad Gita now takes on the oldest book in the world. Inscribed on stone tablets a thousand years before the Iliad and the Bible and found in fragments, Gilgamesh describes the journey of the king of the city of Uruk in what is now Iraq. At the start, Gilgamesh is a young giant with gigantic wealth, power and beauty—and a boundless arrogance that leads him to oppress his people. As an answer to their pleas, the gods create Enkidu to be a double for Gilgamesh, a second self. Learning of this huge, wild man who runs with the animals, Gilgamesh dispatches a priestess to find him and tame him by seducing him. Making love with the priestess awakens Enkidu's consciousness of his true identity as a human being rather than as an animal. Enkidu is taken to the city and to Gilgamesh, who falls in love with him as a soul mate. Soon, however, Gilgamesh takes his beloved friend with him to the Cedar Forest to kill the guardian, the monster Humbaba, in defiance of the gods. Enkidu dies as a result. The overwhelming grief and fear of death that Gilgamesh suffers propels him on a quest for immortality that is as fast-paced and thrilling as a contemporary action film. In the end, Gilgamesh returns to his city. He does not become immortal in the way he thinks he wants to be, but he is able to embrace what is. Relying on existing translations (and in places where there are gaps, on his own imagination), Mitchell seeks language that is as swift and strong as the story itself. He conveys the evenhanded generosity of the original poet, who is as sympathetic toward women and monsters—and the whole range of human emotions and desires—as he is toward his heroes. This wonderful new version of the story of Gilgamesh shows how the story came to achieve literary immortality—not because it is a rare ancient artifact, but because reading it can make people in the here and now feel more completely alive.

A Healing Touch (2008)

True Stories of Life, Death and Hospice
From Booklist: Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Russo (Empire Falls, 2001) edits and, with five others, contributes to this tiny collection of stories of people who have benefited from grief intervention via hospice. While the focus is parochial—all contributors are Mainers who worked with the Waterville, Maine, hospice—the message is universal: hospice counseling is not, as many believe, limited to preparation for death but may help those who have already lost a loved one. In fact, the majority of these accounts are about families who have experienced a child’s sudden, unexpected death: the mother of marine Major Jay T. Aubin, the first American casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom; the parents of a teenage suicide victim; those of a son killed in a car crash; and a father who lost his infant son. Members of several of these families now voluntarily give their time and expertise to the Waterville hospice. At once heartbreaking and hopeful, the stories become all the more poignant as each author personalizes them with references to his or her own experience of loss. --Donna Chavez

I found this profoundly moving and worth reading. It is short and contains six moving stories. Well worth getting and reading. DJE

Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Horse Boy (2009)

A Father's Quest to Heal His Son
by Rupert Isaacson (The Film will be released late 2009)
Review by Temple Grandin: "This is a fascinating book. It is the tale of a family's journey to Mongolia with their five-year-old son who has autism. The family travels to the northern remote areas and lives with the nomads and herders away from the cities. I loved the descriptions of the nomad way of life, and that they were so accepting of a child with autism. Rowan loved baby animals and the people did not mind when he grabbed a baby goat and climbed into one of their beds with it. During the trip, Rowan developed improved language and behavior. He also had a magical connection with horses. There are many wonderful passages about Rowan’s exploits with a Mongolian horse named Blackie.

Rupert Isaacson was surprised at how accommodating the Mongolian people were. They tolerated Rowan's pushing, yelping, and joyful rushing about. At the end of the book the family get a rude awakening when a German tourist who was a psychologist disapproved of bringing a child with autism to a national park to view wild horses. I was interviewed by Rupert Isaacson before he wrote his book and we discussed perhaps the shamans and the healers in some traditional cultures had autistic traits. Their rituals with rhythmic chanting and repetitive movements have similarities to autistic "stims." When I was little, I went into a calm trance-like state when I rocked and dribbled sand through my hands.

Children with autism need to be exposed to lots of interesting things and new experiences in order to develop. One of the reasons the trip to Mongolia was so beneficial was that Rowan could explore lots of fascinating things such as horses, streams, plants, and animals in an environment that was QUIET. The Mongolian pastureland was a quiet environment free of the things that overload the sensory system of a child with autism. There were no florescent lights or constant noise and echoes. Some individuals with autism see the flicker of florescent lights which is like being in a disco with strobe lights. When I was a child, loud sounds hurt my ears.

Parents and teachers can duplicate the benefits of this trip without having to travel. Horseback riding is a great activity. Many parents have told me that their child spoke his/her first words on a horse. Activities that combine both rhythm and balancing such as horseback riding, sitting on a ball, or swinging help stabilize a disordered sensory system. There are lots of places you can take a child to explore nature such as parks, brooks or a field with tall grass. Children with autism need to be shown interesting things and encouraged to do new things. Everywhere Rowan went he was asked questions and encouraged to talk about the things he was looking at. You need to find QUIET, interesting places away from crowds of people, florescent lights, traffic, and noise, where you can engage the child and keep him tuned in. This is a great book and everyone who is interested in autism, animals or different cultures should read it. --Temple Grandin

This may be an important book for parents of an autistic child.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Stitches (2009)

by David Small
From Amazon: Reading Stitches may feel unexpectedly familiar. Not in the details of its story--which is Small's harrowing account of growing up under the watchless eyes of parents who gave him cancer (his radiologist father subjected him to unscrupulous x-rays for minor ailments) and let it develop untreated for years--but in delicate glimpses of the author's child's-eye view, sketched most often with no words at all. Early memories (and difficult ones, too) often seem less like words than pictures we play back to ourselves. That is what's recognizable and, somehow, ultimately delightful in the midst of this deeply sad story: it reminds us of our memories, not just what they are, but what they look like. In every drawing, David Small shows us moments both real and imagined—some that are guileless and funny and wonderfully sweet, many others that are dark and fearful—that unveil a very talented artist, stitches and all. --Anne Bartholomew

Lucy Grealy's The Autobiography Face covers similar territory.

Just read "Stitiches." Powerfully moving and sensitively drawn. Not self-pitying but the picture of a troubled family and a child with cancer. Raises many questions and makes many points in images and few words.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Parallel Play (2009)

Growing Up with Undiagnosed Asperger's
by Tim Page

When he was 45, Mr. Page learned that he had the autistic disorder called Asperger's syndrome. He was relieved to know that his condition was quantifiable and that others share the same general symptoms. But he was also much too smart and self-aware to feel true kinship with other Aspies, as he calls them.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction (2008)

by David Sheff
From Amazon,com Review: "From as early as grade school, the world seemed to be on Nic Sheff's string. Bright and athletic, he excelled in any setting and appeared destined for greatness. Yet as childhood exuberance faded into teenage angst, the precocious boy found himself going down a much different path. Seduced by the illicit world of drugs and alcohol, he quickly found himself caught in the clutches of addiction. Beautiful Boy is Nic's story, but from the perspective of his father, David. Achingly honest, it chronicles the betrayal, pain, and terrifying question marks that haunt the loved ones of an addict. Many respond to addiction with a painful oath of silence, but David Sheff opens up personal wounds to reinforce that it is a disease, and must be treated as such. Most importantly, his journey provides those in similar situations with a commodity that they can never lose: hope"

The Lost Child: A Mother's Story (2009)

by Julie Myerson

From NY Times Review: "Any parent who has had to confront a child’s drug abuse is familiar with the drawn-out agony of despair, impotence, fear, grief and, while there is still a chance for recovery, hope. That last is perhaps the most ravaging of all. Hope means you aren’t yet numb enough, not yet at peace with the chaos into which life has spilled, not yet so defeated and angry that you’re unable to try to help. Julie Myerson, a novelist living in London and the mother of three children, was finally forced to throw her eldest son out of the house — and change the locks — when his cannabis habit so deranged him that he became physically violent. He was 17 years old." Full Review.