A compassionate, intelligent survey of supernatural experiences.

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Sightseeing in the Undiscovered Country

TALES RETOLD BY A PSYCHIC BYSTANDER

The wife of a psychic gathers reports from everyday people who believe they’ve glimpsed the beyond.

In this second foray into paranormal territory for nonfiction author Green (Loitering at the Gate to Eternity, 2013), a universe of perplexing activity comes to light via oral histories and anecdotes. Taking its titular cue from Hamlet’s description of death as “The undiscovered Country, from whose bourn / No Traveler returns,” the collection offers a gallery of real instances in which people believe that they interacted with otherworldly forces. These encounters take a number of forms, from meetings with hard-to-discern apparitions to poignant dreams and vivid visitations from long-dead relatives. One woman, for example, says that she found herself in the presence of her mother’s spirit, holding twin infants in her arms; her mother asked her whether she wanted the babies, and she declined. During the encounter, she says, she came to the conclusion that she didn’t want children of her own. Another man—a writer, photographer, and teacher—describes psychic sensibilities not unlike those possessed by Green’s husband, whose stories of supernatural experiences first made her a believer. The man foresaw that his ailing father would die at 1:00 a.m. on a Friday; sure enough, while attending a wedding, he felt a full-body shiver and told a friend that his father had just died, which turned out to be accurate. This volume is upbeat and respectful in its presentation and looks at all manner of mysterious experiences. Some people recount confrontations with malignant spirits who they believe physically harmed them; others discuss how visions or intuitions of loved ones helped them overcome personal traumas or open up new realms of psychic energy. Green appears to be conscious that scientifically minded readers will doubt these claims, but she complements her interviewees’ memories with informative sidebars that provide more details. The main—and highly laudable—point of the volume, however, isn’t to persuade steadfast skeptics but to further the idea that these phenomena are integral to the human experience. They’re events to discuss and contemplate, the author seems to say, not to fear or dismiss.

A compassionate, intelligent survey of supernatural experiences.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4917-7417-5

Page Count: 210

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

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The debut memoir from the pop and fashion star.

Early on, Simpson describes the book she didn’t write: “a motivational manual telling you how to live your best life.” Though having committed to the lucrative deal years before, she “walked away,” fearing any sort of self-help advice she might give would be hypocritical. Outwardly, Simpson was at the peak of her success, with her fashion line generating “one billion dollars in annual sales.” However, anxiety was getting the better of her, and she admits she’d become a “feelings addict,” just needing “enough noise to distract me from the pain I’d been avoiding since childhood. The demons of traumatic abuse that refused to let me sleep at night—Tylenol PM at age twelve, red wine and Ambien as a grown, scared woman. Those same demons who perched on my shoulder, and when they saw a man as dark as them, leaned in to my ear to whisper, ‘Just give him your light. See if it saves him…’ ” On Halloween 2017, Simpson hit rock bottom, and, with the intervention of her devoted friends and husband, began to address her addictions and underlying fears. In this readable but overlong narrative, the author traces her childhood as a Baptist preacher’s daughter moving 18 times before she “hit fifth grade,” and follows her remarkable rise to fame as a singer. She reveals the psychological trauma resulting from years of sexual abuse by a family friend, experiences that drew her repeatedly into bad relationships with men, most publicly with ex-husband Nick Lachey. Admitting that she was attracted to the validating power of an audience, Simpson analyzes how her failings and triumphs have enabled her to take control of her life, even as she was hounded by the press and various music and movie executives about her weight. Simpson’s memoir contains plenty of personal and professional moments for fans to savor.

An eye-opening glimpse into the attempted self-unmaking of one of Hollywood’s most recognizable talents.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-289996-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dey Street/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2020

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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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