Good Reading : August 2010
Teach Us to Sit Still Tim Parks Tim Parks, writer, essayist, academic and the son of a Church of England clergyman, had long since abandoned his faith. In his 50s, mar ried with three children and teaching at a Milan university, he developed chronic pelvic pain.Top doctors and a battery of tests could not find a cause, so while in India for a conference, he consulted an Ayurvedic doctor, who talked about the interdependence of mind and body. Tim then bought an American self-help book online, and starting practising breathing exercises for the pain. To his surprise, they worked. Shiatsu therapy and Vipassana meditation were then added to his search for wellbeing, and on a retreat in a Buddhist monastery in the Tuscan hills, his guru, surprisingly, read out 1 Corinthians: 13, one of Tim's father's favourite passages from the Bible: 'Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.' When Tim pitched the book to his publisher, the publisher responded, 'All very well, but how do you want us to categorise it?' Tim answered, 'Put it where the true stories go.' Amen to that.This honest and wise book, now dog-eared and underscored, has won a place on my shelf. ★★★★ Harvill/Secker $35.00 Reviewed by Eleanor Massey The Woman Who Thought Too Much Joanne Limburg Iam not a fan of so-called 'misery memoirs'. The shelves full of tragic titles ('Scarred', 'Disgraced', 'Ugly') seem somehow por nographic. So it was not without qualms that I approached Joanne Limburg's memoir of her life with obsessive compulsive disorder. Thankfully, Limburg's memoir is nothing like I imagined it might be. It is clear-sighted, honest, and thoroughly researched, and she feels no need to take 'the reader into hell and out again'. There is tor ment in life with OCD, she is quick to point out, but 'the sheer repetitive tedium of it is a pretty large part of what makes it so tor menting'. Limburg's background as a poet is clear in her highly evocative writing, but her story is simply told -- and the result of Limburg's efforts not to overdramatise her story is all the more captivating. At one point she describes living with OCD as a 'burlesque' of nor mal life. Her honeymoon in Venice, for example, is 'the perfect venue for generating both romantic memories and imaginary near-drowning experiences'. There are moments where she becomes overly wordy, or gets bogged down in theoretical psychoanalytic explanations. But more often her simple and humorous nar ration brings home the fact that the roots of her wor ries are thoroughly recognisable to most of us. Readers may be surprised at how much they have in common with her. ★★★★ RG Atlantic $29.99 Reviewed by Jessica Ballantine biography / memoir word of mouth The DEFINITIVE HISTORY of the Australian cruiser HMAS PERTH and the brave men who sailed in her. www.randomhouse.com.au MIKE CARLTON is one of Australia's BEST-KNOWN broadcasters and journalists. Cruiser is the book Mike has always wanted to write.