A Lupus Handbook: These Are the Faces of Lupus was my first published books. I offer the book to readers at no cost. Writing it has brought me great satisfaction and paved the way for future efforts. There have been many books since the publication of these first books. All of these are published under the name Rhythm Prism. The subject matter varies. Some are for young students and some are for adults. Please check out my website and my book page on Amazon. You are bound to see something that interests you.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
No, but I do remember that my earliest recreational readings were comic books. This was not a choice but a consequence of circumstance. There were no books in my home and there was no public library available to me. There was, however, a shack in the woods near my house that was crammed with moldy comic books. I read these over and over again. I think they paved the way to true reading fluency for me.
What is your writing process?
Writing for me is a comfortable way to communicate. Usually I start with an idea that I think deserves attention, or a subject that I'd like to know more about. Research is always the first step. As I read and explore I decide whether or not the topic deserves as much attention as it will require. There have been biographies I've contemplated writing but decided, after becoming acquainted with the subject, that the individual was too unpleasant to spend a lot of time with. Once I'm involved in a project, I pretty much spend most of my day working at it. Even when I'm not working, it's in my head. The most unpleasant part of the process is discovering mistakes. This happens more than I'd like. The benefit of self-publishing is I can pull down a book and correct the error with little fuss.
People sometimes ask what the difference between prose and poetry is. Certainly the lines between these two forms have blurred in modern times, but generally a reader expects prose to have literal significant and poetry to have an emotional component. It would be good to keep this distinction in mind as you read Joan Slowey's The Red Petticoat.
Joan Slowey's poetry is personal and yet it has the kind of emotional resonance that echos in the ear and the heart of the reader. Ms. Slowey draws upon her experience. The tone of her work tends to be reflective as she looks back over a lifetime of joy, love, and loss. She uses language that has significance for her, that draws upon her Irish roots. Gaelic words pepper her writing, as do characters from Irish lore. At one point she writes an entire haiku in Gaelic. This is her heart and her psyche speaking, of her tradition and to her tradition. All of it works.
Ms. Slowey covers a variety of subjects. In each case there is evidence of a mature intelligence and a deep empathy. Ms. Slowey has witnessed the full cycle of life and is coming to terms with her place in that cycle. In "Minus One", for example, she mourns the passing of her "own particular Adam." Her "magic circle" has been broken and she wonders
How much of you is me Stretching to close the circle.
Two of my favorite poems draw upon her insight as a sentient observer. One haiku, for example, notes the slime of a snail on her patio and ends with the line, "Well, snails must live too". Another, more thought-provoking piece contemplates a creature even more despised than the snail: a flasher. In this poem, entitled, "The Flasher", she lends complexity to a subject most of us dismiss out of hand. What is the dark secret behind such a low act? She wonders, as the poem draws to an end,
'Did he shake with wicked glee?" or did he "Turn away to hide?"
The Red Petticoat is a slim volume. Its brevity invites a leisurely read, and perhaps a re-read. If you indulge in this temptation you're bound to find a gem, one poem that resonates with you as so many in this collection did with me.
I highly recommend Joan Slowey's The Red Petticoat.
The Tightrope of the Absurd is not light reading. I actually began to write about the book before I had finished reading because I wanted to lodge a disagreement with the author. That’s a good thing. A great book is not one that I agree with. It’s one that makes me think, that expands my universe of observation and consideration. The Tightrope of the Absurd does that.
An example of my philosophical falling out with the author follows: Mr. Starkenburg states that “Good is everything that benefits mankind…” and that “the main value of life is life itself”. I took exception to this proposition because I found the two parts of this statement to be in conflict. It struck me, as I read, that the human race is essentially parasitic on earth, that humans are inimical to earth’s existence. It can be argued that, as humans evolve, we consume and destroy the planet that sustains us. Our predatory relationship with the host planet is so extreme that many scientists believe space travel is an imperative. We look forward to leaving this dying orb and colonizing others, so we can feed off them, and move on again. Just a thought I had. Mr. Starkenburg’s book does that to me–makes me think.
Mr. Starkenburg is a well-read man. He brings together ideas from some of the most profound thinkers through the ages. A few to whom Mr. Starkenburg gives deference, I consider to be lightweights, or even disreputable. One of these is Ayn Rand. Mr. Starkenburg and I can disagree about that. What matters is that I care to disagree, that I’m moved enough by his suggestions to take exception to them.
The essence of Mr. Starkenburg’s argument, as I understand it, is this: The only path to humanness, to being truly human, is through rational, conscious and deliberate thought. Religion, in his view, is not rational but is based on belief and custom. Religion, he suggests, is an obstacle to achieving humanness.
Mr. Starkenburg evaluates the need that religion seems to fill in people’s lives. One need, or hunger, that it satisfies is the search for meaning. Can life have meaning without religion? In response to this question, Mr. Starkenburg cites the philosophies of, among others, Jean-Paul Sartre and Viktor Frankl. Sartre asserts that life has no essential meaning, but is merely improvised. According to him, none of us has a script. We merely respond to circumstances as they arise. Frankl, who survived a Nazi concentration camp, suggests that meaning can be found in life but only if it is lived in a way that is true to each person’s intrinsic nature: Be True to Thyself
Weighing the philosophies of Jean-Paul Sartre and Viktor Frankl is an interesting exercise, no matter the outcome. That’s the value I found in The Tightrope of the Absurd. It wasn’t in the strength of Mr. Starkenburg’s arguments, although he solidly supports every position he holds. The value was in the way he built those arguments, the wide array of material he brought into the discussion, and the place he left for me to agree or disagree.
It would be impossible in the space of a short review to do justice to Mr. Starkenburg’s book. To sum up, anemically: Sybe Starkenburg offers a moral and philosophical thesis about how to have a full, thoughtful and positive life. He suggests that empathy is a critical component to this life, empathy not only toward people, but toward other species.
Not everyone will enjoy this book, but readers who are open to new perspectives probably will. And if they are, like most of us, beset at times by a vague uneasiness about existence and religion, this book may suit them. It will not answer every question, but it will address the urge to find answers. It will offer ideas about how to think and where to search for answers to questions that are pushed to the back of the mind. Mr. Starkenburg would surely recommend that these questions be welcomed, because they won’t go away. They’ll lurk in the background and influence every other area of life until they are confronted rationally, consciously, and deliberately.