I am hopelessly and helplessly condemned by my own lust for literature that I recklessly and depravedly buy books with remorseless abandon. My day job is the ever more practical occupation of freelance musician. I'm not rich. Which makes my licentious book purchasing all the more irresponsible.
Sally Fletcher has
written two books coming out of her own personal experience.She is a musician who plays the harp and
organ and she also has suffered from epilepsy.
In The Challenge of Epilepsy: Complementary and Alternative Solutions, Ms. Fletcher shares her own
challenges with epilepsy and how she arrived at-if not a cure- a method to
prevent seizures.In the first chapter
she tells us that she used to suffer from ten to fifteen seizures per month
that were uncontrolled by medication.She now is seizure free and the rest of the book is devoted to
explaining how she, without the help of doctors, books, or any other outside
source overcame her affliction.
The book explains the facts and myths of epileptic seizures
and what we know about what parts of the brain are affected.She devotes a couple of chapters to diet and
life style habits that can affect seizures and their frequency. She delves into
what is called biofeedback, neurofeedback and brain waves.A chapter describing medication and their
side affects are also listed.
After filling the reader in on the background of epilepsy-
causes (unknown), medical facts and different studies of the brain, she gets to
the main thrust of her book.According
to her, a person can control their own brainwaves and eventually learn to
Much of what she
offers includes yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques that she asserts
will raise an epileptic’s threshold so that they do not suffer a seizure.Examples of “correct thinking techniques” are
included in one chapter where she directs the epileptic to allow the body to
obey each conscious thought as follows:
1.I feel very quiet.
2. I am beginning to feel quite relaxed.
3.My feet feel heavy
4.My ankles, my
knees and my hips feel heavy, relaxed and comfortable.
5.My solar plexus,
and the whole central portion of my body, feelrealxed and quiet.
There are 23 more thoughts listed that Ms. Fletcher walks
Other chapters discuss good exercise and the role music can
play in healing an epileptic of seizures.
I would like to point out that I am not an epileptic and
have not tried any of these techniques so cannot vouch for them.However, the book was interesting to read and
the idea of controlling one’s thoughts to contain seizures is
thought-provoking. My personal advice?Consult a doctor before embarking on any unconventional therapy.
Ms. Fletcher’s other book is Music:Healing and Harmony.In this book she gives a lot of information
on how music affects the mind and body.She cites many sources that show the impact music has on the development
of our mind, the manipulation of our emotions and even our bodily health.
She devotes some interesting chapters to the actual science
of music, the vibrations that make up different pitches and how they can affect
the brain and emotions.She gives
information on different styles of music and how they help us to become
energized, relaxed, concentrate, think logically or excited.She describes studies that have shown how
music helps control ADD and ADHD as well as the immune system.
While some of her information smacks of Eastern mysticism
(she talks of enhancing bodily energies by finding “chakra” points), I found
the book –if not providing a lot of new information ( I have a Master’s degree
in Music)- at least an interesting and useful tool for the non musical
Disclaimer: I received these books for free by the author.
Ms. Fletcher also records on the harp and organ.For more information you can go to her
My favorite genre of literature is classical.My favorite time period is the nineteenth
century. Favorite authors?Russian.Favorite Russian authors?Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky!
When I moved to Texas
several years ago, the men who moved my furniture (if boxes of books qualify as
furniture) were from Russia.I got into a conversation with one of the men
about Russian literature.I mentioned to
him my predilection for Russian authors and how much I enjoyed Dostoyevsky in
particular.The man looked at me a
moment, then tapped his forehead.He
said, “Dostoyevsky was crazy, you know that?”
I don’t know if
Dostoyevsky was certifiably insane or not, but his writing does seem to express
the soul of a tortured individual.But
never without hope.That is why I love
his writings so much.Dostoyevsky never
shies away from writing stories about people whose ‘hearts are desperately
wicked’ but, unlike secular humanist writers, he doesn’t stop with the despair.In spite of evil circumstances and unstable,
selfish people, power and hope course through the veins of each story.
Dostoyevsky never preaches, yet God is written on every
page.His presence is declared as it is
in nature.To compare, read a story
written by a secularist, such as Anton Chekov or Albert Camus or just about any
20th century writer.The difference
is striking.Their characters are left
adrift. At the end of the story you’re left asking, what was the point?In Dostoyevsky’s stories, no matter how hard
life becomes, no matter how wickedly a person acts there is the sense that God
is still holding them in the palm of their hand.
White Nights and
Other Stories is a collection of short stories with Dostoyevsky’s trademark peculiarities.Each story keeps you guessing with many
twists and turns in the plots and events.
His stories are darkly psychological in nature.Often, he has the reader following the
rambling thoughts of the protaganists giving us a first person account of how
the hero perceives his environment and how he reacts to it. The first two
stories, The Honest Thief and An UnpleasantPredicament show this- the first as
a man wrestles with his conscience over a theft he has made and the second when
a man from an upper class crashes the wedding of his subordinate.He doesn’t shy away from putting his
characters in awkward situations and we suffer with them as they struggle to
Some of his stories are simply zany from a superficial view
but contain a message that exposes certain facets of Russian society.In Another Man’s Wife, we’re led on a merry
chase with a man who suspects his wife of infidelity.He follows a man he believes is her lover, only
to enter the wrong door and ends up in the apartment of a strange woman.While trying to explain his presence to the
startled woman, her husband can be heard climbing the stairwell.In order to avoid a confrontation, the man
hides under her bed.To his
surprise he finds another man already hiding there.You’ll have to read the story to find out how
it all resolves.
In The Crocodile, an ambitious business man visits an animal
exhibition and falls into the crocodile pit where he is gobbled up by you know
what.He does not die, however, and
refuses to be rescued as he believes that living in the crocodile will increase
his standing in society.He even insists
that his wife join him.While these
stories seem crazy, a larger picture of 19th century Russian culture
and values is drawn.
Bobok is about a man who dies and is buried in a cemetery
but remains conscious.He lies in his
coffin listening to the conversations of all the other dead people.We, of course, listen too, and hear some very
interesting stories from people who came from all walks of life but are now
lying together in a grave yard.
The title story, White Nights is about a man whose character
must have been inspired by Dostoyevsky’s own impulsive, passionate nature.The man falls in love and wishes to marry a
lonely young woman confined to a life of living with her grandmother.The woman is waiting for her lover, who has
promised to return and marry her on a certain day.The time is approaching and the woman is
losing hope.Will the man return?Who will she marry?Or will she get married at all?
Each story pulls the reader in and arrests them until the
end.I don’t believe anyone will be able
to put down the book in the middle of any of these novellas.If you’re a lover of Russian classic
literature and especially Fyodor Dostoyevsky, you will enjoy this collection.
has written a brilliant chronicling of Americans who traveled to Paris in the 19th
century.Before reading his book, I
never realized how many famous Americans lived in Paris and how living there impacted their
In the 1830’s
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Samuel Morse and John Fennimore Cooper kicked off the
migration.Call me ignorant, but I didn’t
know that Morse was an artist.He spent
countless hours in the Louvre painting and receiving commissions stateside for
his work.Cooper wrote many of his most
important novels there.Holmes and many
other American medical students studied medicine.
The invention that
Morse is most famous for, the telegraph and the code named after him, was
conceived in Paris.Later, P.T. Barnum and his famous Tom Thumb
toured the city to great acclaim.The
pianist and composer Gottschalk spent many years performing in Paris.
that came were John Singer Sargent, James McNeil Whistler and Augustus
Saint-Gaudens.Mary Cassatt, who became
good friends with Edgar Degas, was the only American accepted into the Impressionist
In addition to
the artists, architects, and musicians, important politicians left their
mark.Elihu Washburne was the only
international diplomat who stayed in Paris
during the political upheaval and wars during the 1870’s.He helped protect and provide for many native
and foreign people caught in the crossfire.
We don’t just
learn of the Americans’ accomplishments but of their lives:how they spent their free time, the sort of
friendships they made, their characters and personalities.
McCullough does a
meticulous job gathering notes, letters, and diaries.His bibliography takes up almost a quarter of
the book.His writing is fluid and
eloquent.This is no dry recitation of
facts but a vibrant, breathing, compilation of the different lives and events
that shaped Paris and the Americans that lived there.Reading The Greater Journey paints a vivid
picture as rich and voluptuous as an oil painting by Cezanne.One can see and experience a Paris of the past.The only way anyone will be able to do so
interested in history and how one culture is shaped by another, this book is
Cleopatra is one
of the legendary figures out of history that we hear about but may not
necessarily know much about.I had read
about her in the works of Josephus.Shakespeare wrote about her and so did some French romanticists.
Elisabeth Taylor glamorized her and others have vilified her. Other than that I
was fairly ignorant about this “Queen of the Nile.”
writes a colorful, if not very objective, biography of one of the most
famous-or infamous depending on your viewpoint- historical figures.In her book, Cleopatra: a Life, she attempts
to weed out the legend and get at the heart of who this woman really was.
that Schiff starts out her book by declaring that most historicists
throughout the ages had a biased opinion against Cleopatra rooted in the age old sin of
chauvinism.Sure, she murdered her own
family members in her quest for power.Sure,
she slept with powerful leaders of the Roman Empire.Okay, and maybe she poisoned a few hundred
prisoners in order to get just the right sort of elixirs to use on her enemies.
Hey, she had a country to maintain.What’s a poor girl to do?
prejudice for her subject is exposed in an especially revealing response to a question
in an interview printed at the end of the book.After blasting all those rotten men for relentlessly attacking Cleopatra
just because she was a woman, the interviewer asks her why a woman, Florence
Nightingale, referred to Cleopatra as a “disgusting woman.”
Ms. Schiff answers
the question thus:
By the time
Florence Nightingale got her neurotic hands on Cleopatra, she had been mangled
beyond recognition by both history and literature.For their own political reasons, the Romans
needed her to be a femme fatale who seduced Mark Antony and lusted after Rome.Shakespeare took it from there.
hands?Uh, maybe Ms. Nightingale found
someone who would murder her own family members and poison hundreds of
people disgusting.Does Ms. Schiff not find that disgusting?My advice to Ms. Schiff is not to fall in
love with your subject if you want to be taken seriously.And, by the way, I find it somewhat chauvinistic
to assume that because a writer is male he can only have nefarious reasons for
writing about a female historical figure.That’s called presuming motives.
In fact, after
establishing that it is practically impossible to know the true Cleopatra, we
are then expected to take Ms. Schiff’s word for who she says Cleopatra is.
Still, I have to say that I found Cleopatra: a Life to be
engaging, interesting and a book that finally put a definitive face on someone
I had never taken the opportunity to examine before.Frankly, I don’t know why Ms. Schiff takes
the ancient biographers denigrative portrayal of Cleopatra so personally.She accuses Josephus of hating her,
but-having personally read Josepus’ account- I didn’t see where Cleopatra got
special treatment.The times were brutal
and so were the leaders of the era.Josephus makes her out to be a typically manipulative power monger. Schiff
admits the same in her own account.Besides, it’s nothing compared to his description of Herod Antipas.Yeesh.No wonder Joseph fled to Egypt
with Mary and baby Jesus.What a
In Ms. Schiff’s
book we follow Cleopatra as she climbs to power in Egypt
and how she carefully maneuvers herself and her country into a favorable
position with the Roman Empire.Her first conquest is Julius Caesar, by whom
she has one son, Ceasarian.When Julius
falls to assassins, she then turns her sights on Mark Antony.Her relationship with Mark Antony produced
three children.Cleopatra gambled in
order to secure her position inside of the Empire but unfortunately aligned
herself with what -after several acrimonious years of power struggling with
Octavian (Augustus Caesar) - became the losing team.This led to both her and Mark Antony’s death
by suicide.Better kill yourself than be
dragged through the Roman streets in chains or worse.
Ms. Schiff has
done her homework and her bibliography testifies to the meticulous detail and
research she invested in this book.It
reads as well as any novel and will give the reader a definite taste of the
time period preceding the first century A.D.I recommend Ms. Schiff’s book to anyone interested in the life of one of
the few female rulers of the ancient world.