The Contemplator


Proverbs for modernity.
Mattewada, a physician as well as a victim of chronic fatigue syndrome, begins his work with an arresting statement: “At the very moment you are complaining about your life, there is somebody, somewhere in the world, begging for it.” In this original, compelling collection, Mattewada assembles hundreds of short original statements designed to make the reader stop, think and contemplate. By and large he succeeds. The author’s statements arise from deep introspection and serious questioning of the world and its values. Nothing in this collection is trite or mundane, which is remarkable given the nature of the work. In fact, the slim volume, which covers a great deal of ground, reads much like one of the many collections of quotations from Henry David Thoreau, providing thoughtful, proverbial and eminently repeatable snippets on the big issues and questions of life. Some of Mattewada’s statements, however, are definitively modern, such as his two-page poem “A Patient’s Appeal,” which will resonate with anyone who has navigated a hospital or doctor’s office. A recurring theme is the futility of materialism, as Mattewada makes it clear that our toil and any resulting riches or fame are temporary and meaningless in the grand scheme of the universe. Indeed, he echoes the Old Testament’s book of Ecclesiastes (whether he knows it or not) in extolling the meaninglessness of our material lives. By contrast, he also speaks a great deal about suffering and sees it as a means of focusing on what really matters in life. He discusses God in many instances, sometimes ambiguously and agnostically, sometimes with certainty (e.g., “Abandon yourself to God”). An index would benefit the work, but overall, Mattewada’s perspective on life is an optimistic one, and he sees hope even in the midst of a broken world. As he says, “A problem cannot exist without a solution.”
A strikingly insightful gem.

Pub Date: May 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0692026458

Page Count: 146

Publisher: YamPress Books

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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