Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Review Review # 274: The Möbius Strip of Ifs by Mathias B. Freese

Description: (from book-jacket)
     In this impressive and varied collection of creative essays, Mathias B. Freese jousts with American culture. A mixture of the author's reminiscences, insights, observations, and criticism, the book examines the use and misuse of psychotherapy, childhood trauma, complicated family relationships, his frustration as a teacher, and the enduring value of tenaciously writing through it all. 
     Freese scathingly describes the conditioning society imposes upon artists and awakened souls. Whether writing about the spiritual teacher, Krishnamurti, poet and novelist, Nikos Kazantzakis, or film giants such as Orson Welles and Buster Keaton, the author skewers where he can and applauds those who refuse to compromise and conform... 
     At the core of these essays is the author's struggle to authentically express his unique perspective, to unflinchingly reveal a profound visceral truth, along with a passionate desire to be completely alive and aware. 

     First question: What is a Möbius Strip? I knew that the front cover had a picture of one, but I still wasn't exactly sure, so I looked up the definition: "A one-sided surface that is constructed from a rectangle by holding one end fixed, rotating the opposite end through 180 degrees, and joining it to the first end..." (
Unfortunately, I still wasn't sure why it was the tile of the book, until I found this definition: "a Möbius strip only has one side and one edge, so ants would be able to walk on the Möbius strip on a single surface indefinitely since there is no edge in the direction of their movement." ( So I finally came to the conclusion that the Möbius strip, (in the book's case), might represent the disorienting structure/cycle of life; things look one way, but end up another.
      I was genuinely surprised when I started reading Mathias Freese's essays, they were very rich and profound, his outlook on several topics showcasing a range of unyielding emotions - frustration, anger, discontent, depression, doubt, renewal, hope, etc...  I was not ready for such a mind-altering read - one that left me in a state of contemplative hibernation. Each essay, especially "Untidy Lives, I Say to Myself", "Personal Posturings: Yahoos as Bloggers", "I Had A Daughter Once", "On the Holocaust", and "Babbling Books and Motion Pictures", resonated with me, some for obvious reasons, others because they were so eerily personal. The author's thoughts were well organized and brutally honest, his no-holds-barred writing style pushing me into debate with myself over my own preconceived ideas and beliefs on certain topics. Even the most simple essays conveyed unfathomable depth, there is no way a reader could put the book down and not linger on the wisdom the author had offered. After reading, I must admit that I feel like everyone has their own Möbius strip - a life full of actions, ideas, stories, regrets, loves, miscommunications, etc, and Mathias Freese has made that point very visual to me. I really enjoyed the book overall, the essay size and formatting were very accessible - I read the essays in order, but it is very easy to pick-and-choose which order a reader prefers. The Möbius Strip of Ifs is not a book to be read quickly or taken lightly - but it will stay with readers for a long time after it has been experienced. Highly recommended to adult readers looking for a refreshing, emotion/thought-fueled read; not for the faint of heart.

Rating: On the Run (4.5/5)

*** I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

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