Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Airs Tuesdays at 9 a.m. MST

Streams live on KFUN/KLVF

Program features books, books, books and a moving story of life after loss

Tome on the Range manager Michael Siewert brought another stack of wonderful reading options to the Tuesday, March 13 program.

Crazy Like Us: The Globalization of the American Psyche, by Ethan Watters, will be the featured book at the Tome on the Range Sunday Salon, 3 p.m., March 18. Mental illness and how it is handled in this country is having an unexpected but perhaps predictable ripple affect across the world. Join Tome owner Nancy Colalillo in the discussion.

From the Crazy Like Us website: “The most devastating consequence of the spread of American culture across the globe has not been our golden arches or our bomb craters, but our bulldozing of the human psyche itself. American-style depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and anorexia have begun to spread around the world like contagions, and the virus is us. Traveling from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka to Zanzibar to Japan, acclaimed journalist Ethan Watters witnesses firsthand how Western healers often steamroll indigenous expressions of mental health and madness and replace them with our own. In teaching the rest of the world to think like us, we have been homogenizing the way the world goes mad.”

Michael also talked about, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt. “Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding.”

This excerpt from the Random House website sets the stage for a book that explores the hide-bound opinions and cultural perceptions that prevent us from seeing the “other side” of a question. Common ground doesn’t have to mean changing one’s philosophy, but rather listening with an open mind to the opinions of others, even when we don’t agree with them.

Which lead Michael to a discussion of the book, Religion for Atheists, by Alain de Botton. This is a book a little outside my ken, so I include an excerpt from de Botton’s blog, which you may want to read in full: 

Religion for Atheists suggests that rather than mocking religions, agnostics and atheists should instead steal from them – because they're packed with good ideas on how we might live and arrange our societies. Blending deep respect with total impiety, Alain (a non-believer himself) proposes that we should look to religions for insights into, among other concerns, how to…”

Another of Michael’s current favs is, Turing’s Cathedral, by George Dyson.  I suspect by Michael’s commentary, the book may be a little dense with technical minutia, but I also imagine it is a fascinating look at what we now think of as the “computer age,” when in reality it began with a person and an idea back in 1936.

From the Random House website: “It is possible to invent a single machine which can be used to compute any computable sequence,” twenty-four-year-old Alan Turing announced in 1936. In Turing’s Cathedral, George Dyson focuses on a small group of men and women, led by John von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, who built one of the first computers to realize Alan Turing’s vision of a Universal Machine. Their work would break the distinction between numbers that mean things and numbers that do things—and our universe would never be the same.”

Michael read from a small book that manages to say quite a lot in few well chosen words. Poetry in prose form, Almost Invisible, by Mark Strand is made up of  small vignettes that make you think, smile, chuckle and even laugh out loud.

From the Random House website: “From Pulitzer Prize–winner Mark Strand comes an exquisitely witty and poignant series of prose poems. Sometimes appearing as pure prose, sometimes as impure poetry, but always with Strand’s clarity and simplicity of style, they are like riddles, their answers vanishing just as they appear within reach. Fable, domestic satire, meditation, joke, and fantasy all come together in what is arguably the liveliest, most entertaining book that Strand has yet written.”

There were other books discussed, but for a real treat, go to Tome and do some browsing. They love it when you do that.

"Leaving the Hall Light" On Defines Hope and Resilience

My call-in guest, Madeline Sharples, is a woman with a lot of courage. Her book, Leaving the Hall Light On, is part memoir, cathartic journal, story of recovery and the steps she took to rebuild her life after the suicide of her son who lived for years with bipolar disorder. It is a personal story and goes to the heart of mental illness, which affects the afflicted individual and all those with whom he or she comes into contact.

The interview with Madeline was open and honest, leaving one with the impression that nothing in her life is a surprise, and there is nothing in her life she can’t handle. She and her family walked with Paul - the son and brother whose illness lead to his suicide - through hell, and then endured another kind of hell in the weeks, months and years following his death.

I’ve read Leaving the Hall Light On, and my heart and sympathies go out to anyone who has had to learn how to live with and through horrendous tragedies.

The book is organized around Madeline’s poetry. An accomplished writer she hadn't written much poetry until after Paul’s death. As a consequence of attending a writing workshop at Esalen Institute in California, she found poetry to be intensely personal and therapeutic. “I was able to get all the personal, dark and bad stuff onto the page through poetry.” For Madeline it proved to be another means of dealing with an almost unfathomable loss

Her publisher encouraged her to use more of her poetry in the book and to organize the content around the poetry. When you read Leaving the Hall Light On, you can understand how one literary form draws strength from the other.

The book is about Paul’s “...journey into madness,” and the life Madeline and her family rebuilt after his suicide. She said she has survived and prospered in unexpected way. She is a web journalist and working on a novel.

Leaving the Hall Light On, refers to her “magical thinking" following Paul’s death that if she lived life a certain way, like leaving the hall light on, not moving from their home, not changing the telephone number, Paul would be able to find his way back to them. Her years of living with this tragedy inspired her to write the book and provides information about resources available to help others experiencing similar situations. 

The book is worth your time, especially if you are seeking information about bipolar disorder, mental illness and hope.

For more about Madeline go to any one of the following links: “Leaving the Hall Light On,”

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