Memoir

Off the Beaten Track

Off the Beaten Track
Categories: ,
Author:
Published: October 23, 2014
Author's Twitter: @Wussyboy
My Crazy Year in Asia In 1989, Frank Kusy found himself the unwilling love slave of a booted and bodiced Boadicea on a Harley low rider. Then he fell in love with someone else, and it got a lot worse. Trapped in a small bedsit in London, with strange foreign curses coming through the door, he jumped at the chance to write a travel book on South East Asia. There followed the craziest year of his life: he got married in a Balinese village, attacked by giant spiders in Australia, and bombed on the Cambodian border. Not to mention starting a new business in India, nearly killing the King of Thailand and receiving the death penalty in Malaysia. Oh, how Frank wished he’d never met that crazy Polish biker chick… …a really enjoyable, rollicking, true adventure set in the non-touristy parts of Asia…

December 5, 2014

An engaging Memoir

Off the Beaten Track is a memoir of long time travel writer Frank Kusy, author of the AIA Seal of Excellence winner Rupee Millionaire. Kusy’s experience as a writer shows in the fluid, vibrant prose he uses to describe his travels in Asia in the seventies. This is an engaging story full of anecdotes that have you smiling and shaking your head at the antics of the young Kusy.

The difficulty in memoir writing is to find a thread that unifies the story in the way that the plot does in fiction. Generally, real life isn’t as dramatic as fiction, and in unskilled hands, it’s easy to lose a reader if the account of a person’s life wanders aimlessly. This would be particularly easy to do in a travel memoir, but Kusy has worked skilfully with his material and used the thread of his efforts to both secure and avoid getting a wife in the same way that a fiction writer would use a plot. Though the various anecdotes are interesting in themselves, without this emphasis, they would not provide such a satisfying whole. We want to read to the end to see how young Frank’s bumbling efforts at romance turn out. Frank is an endearing character and his perspective on the world and efforts to live as a Buddhist add another layer of interest to the memoir.

The other theme, as the title suggests, is his desire to get off the beaten track, and the events that thwart his attempts to really experience Asia without a whiff of tourists provide further interest beyond a mere account of his travels. Though not as dramatic as Rupee Millionaires, it’s still a great read, especially for anyone interested in travel in Asia. Highly recommended.

The editing is excellent. My only misgiving was that I would have liked the author to have gone more deeply into some aspects of his journey; for example, the ceremony when the Joju Gohonzon was enshrined in the main temple in Jakarta. No doubt the author has his reasons for staying clear of it, but I felt it was a missed opportunity to go deeper into the culture.

All up Kusy is a very talented memoir writer and this book should be enjoyed by a wide variety of people.

Breathing for Two

Breathing for Two
Author:
Publisher:
Published: November 30, 2013
Author's Twitter: @wolfpascoe
Ever wonder exactly why anesthesiologists describe their job as hours of boredom, moments of panic? With gentle precision, anesthesiologist Wolf Pascoe teases apart an overlooked world and unveils the eggshell dance that takes place at the head of an operating table. A personal odyssey that goes deep into the heart of anesthesia's most fearsome mystery—breathing—this short book offers a seat on the stage of humanity's original theatre. It will change the way you think about life, and breath.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

Authoritative, humane and dignified

This is a personal memoir by an anaesthetist about what his job entails, set against the context of the history of anaesthesia, from Greek mythology through to when it started to become more routine in the 19th century.

While the narrative is authoritative, humane and dignified, the author is frank about past failures and difficulties, and less forthcoming about his successes. It soon becomes clear that any operation can bring risk, with potential challenges that might strike at any time to endanger the patient and alarm the anaesthetist. The author often compares his tasks to being an airline pilot – a pilot who sometimes has to fly and land in fog.

The author’s carefully onsidered and controlled prose is highly expressive, sometimes verging on the poetic, using analogies and similes to help the reader understand just what it’s like to be in his role in the operating theatre – a role that is often underrated because it is a relatively silent one, and low profile. In medical dramas, the camera will focus on the surgeon, not the anaesthetist, who is generally treated as an also-ran, although without him the operation could not take place.

This book therefore does a good PR job for anaesthetists everywhere by raising the profile of the importance and challenge of the job they do. The reader is likely to end the book thankful for the anaesthetist’s expertise, as much as for the surgeon’s, and grateful to live in the age of modern medicine.

This is a short book, and I could happily have kept reading for another 100 pages or more. In fact, I felt a little disappointed that the author had not written more, as he must have plenty more anecdotes to share. But it wasn’t just the subject matter, but the high quality of the prose and enjoyment in the author’s company that left me craving more.

The book was well presented and well formatted, and the simple, understated but smart and eyecatching cover fits it well.

“Breathing for Two” would be enjoyed by anyone interested in medical and surgical matters, both present and historic, whether or not they have had or are expecting to have surgery. A word of caution though: anyone about to undergo surgery should avoid this book until after they’ve come round from their anaesthetic!

Follow the Joy – A Memoir

Follow the Joy – A Memoir
Categories: ,
Publisher:
Published: August 16, 2013
Author's Twitter: @TwidiotsTheBook
I believe our intuition can guide us to happiness. When I was 27, I bought a one-way ticket to India to put my beliefs to the test, and it worked.

Reviewed by Awesome Indies Assessor

September 8, 2014

‘Follow The Joy’ is a true story of what happened when, at 27, Jason Kurtz bought a one-way ticket to India and let intuition be his guide.  He studied meditation, taught English to Tibetan monks, and volunteered at the Mother Theresa Homes for the Destitute and Dying.  He learnt to live day to day, be open to unexpected possibilities and ultimately to follow his joy.

The thing that is immediately and wonderfully apparent in this memoir is that the author knows how to write well. This book is a pleasure to read. The author skilfully teases out the theme of how to live a compassionate life and imbues it with the kind of tension we expect in a novel. We share Jason’s hopes and fears, and his struggles with the reality of life for a foreigner in India and with his own insecurities. India comes alive on the pages of this book, and the story itself reflects the extremes of spiritual peace and bustling activity of India itself. This ultimately spiritual journey builds to the point where Jason finds himself holding the hand of a dying man in one of the Mother Theresa Homes. The whole section of Jason’s experiences in the Homes is highly moving.

I could talk about how well-drawn Jason is, and how alive are the other characters; I could talk about how good the prose it, how well described the settings, and how well-constructed the story is, or I can simply say that I cannot fault this book. It is, quite simply, an excellent example of a memoir.