An often moving account that’s just as outlandish and funny as the author’s bizarre experience.

God In My Head

THE TRUE STORY OF AN EX-CHRISTIAN WHO ACCIDENTALLY MET GOD

In this debut memoir, one man’s hallucination at the dentist’s office offers answers to mysteries regarding religion and the universe.

“I just met God,” Grisetti said to the dental hygienist as he woke up from a combination of laughing gas, vodka, Xanax, and marijuana. He’d combined the drugs to avoid the traumatic pain of getting fillings, but instead, he says, he found himself in a 200-year-long conversation with the creator of the universe. It was more than nitrous oxide–induced babbling or simple hallucination: Grisetti was so deeply affected by what he experienced that he writes the ordeal out in surprising detail for this memoir. The God that Grisetti met was far different from the one he knew as a Southern Baptist child. This God was hipper, genderless, and more amenable to the New Yorker author’s agnosticism, and patiently explained what religions have gotten all wrong—and what many of them still get right. They watched supernovas together, talked about the origin of the world, and discussed what Jesus Christ was really all about. “My father was going to rub this in my face for the rest of my life,” Grisetti writes. “I met God on an accidental drug trip and He told me that Jesus was real. Gross.” Grisetti approaches all the complicated topics with this same punchy snark in what he jokingly calls “The Gospel According to Nitrous Oxide.” But he’s also so meticulous and thorough in his recollection that it can’t be taken as a simple laughing matter. He says that his book is a response to Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent’s 2010 book Heaven Is for Real, and he creates a cynical, adult-oriented version of that conservative take on near-death experience. Fittingly, Grisetti’s God is more reminiscent of the alien in Carl Sagan’s 1985 novel Contact than of anything in contemporary Christian literature. The author’s own friends, he says, responded to the event in different ways: they were either deeply affected by it or they told him it was a “narcissistic waste of time.” Both reactions seem valid for the memoir, as well. But even readers who aren’t converted by this odd testimony will still be charmed by Grisetti’s humor and his conviction in telling such a strange, audacious story.

An often moving account that’s just as outlandish and funny as the author’s bizarre experience.

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5085-0266-1

Page Count: 200

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2016

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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