Book Review: Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House

The words flow, each better than the next, sometimes rhyming, sometimes like the churning of an ocean, thoughts dripping from every nook, every crevice. Each thought more relatable than the next, some philosophical, some mundane but the currents strong enough to wash you away.

Book: Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House

Author: J. Maxwell

Genre: Poetry, Self-Discovery

Review Copy: From the Author

Available on: Amazon.com

For Mental Health Awareness Month, I got the opportunity to read one of my favorite literary forms – poetry. J. Maxwell (Twitter @JMaxwell_Writer), author and illustrator’s debut poetry collection, Sober Thoughts from the Crazy House, is a candid evocation of his journey from mental health issues to a more sober approach to life.

One of the first steps to recovery, to solve issues permeating our lives, is to accept the situation and to seek help. J. Maxwell starts with the backstory of his struggles and how he overcame years of addiction and self-abuse. Words provided an artistic refuge. In searching for the words to express, Maxwell was seeking answers.

Many who have been lost and found their way will relate to the outpouring in the fluent verses. These words can be yours, mine – anyone who has grappled with self-doubt, self-disdain, guilt, shame, fear. You can imagine the poet scribbling on paper napkins and vagrant sheets, crumpled, torn at the edges, as he tries to find the meaning, define the terms in the textbook that are now a part of him. The anguish is palpable, yet with a glimmer of hope, for only those who seek shall receive.

The poems touch a vast array of experiences; hallucinations, anxiety, mania, depression, addiction, withdrawal, therapy. At a certain moment, I thought the formatting was juvenile, like children expanding alphabets to words in wordplay. However, each alphabet in Maxwell’s vocabulary dives into an intense experience with well-crafted interpretations. The words flow, each better than the next, sometimes rhyming, sometimes like the churning of an ocean, thoughts dripping from every nook, every crevice. Each thought more relatable than the next, some philosophical, some mundane but the currents strong enough to wash you away.

This is a book for those who can appreciate the beauty and depth of free verses. It can be perceived as a haven for the troubled mind, evolving from experiences in the “crazy house.” Maxwell’s poetic expressions are not only for those who want to know how they feel, how someone else in their position feels but also a must-have for caregivers and guides, for readers and learners. It is an insight into a mind filled with chaos, trying to find balance, all on its own, without reaching out for help.

When troubled souls can’t articulate, the sober writings from the recovering mind can be a guidebook. I find this to be a precious collection that I would recommend everyone to read because where thoughts overburden us only words can be saviors. I would have liked to see some illustrations along with the words, making it an immersive experience. I also found it hard to decipher the book cover* art work and would like some insight into it.

*The author reached out to me with a note: “The cover art is the underside of the bottom of a bottle. This was perfect since so many go looking for answers at the bottom of a bottle only to find there aren’t any. You have to get to the bottom to really find that out though.”

J. Maxwell’s work speaks of hope, of finding yourself, and of repeating the message:

Don’t judge yourself

Lest ye cast the first stone!

Reedsy Discovery – A Platform for Indie Publishing

Today, I started reading my first book in the Reedsy Discovery book review community. Reedsy is a British startup online author services firm promoting collaboration between authors and publishing freelancers in the self-publishing industry. Discovery, puts a spotlight on the best works of the Independent (indie) publishing world — great books that are often overshadowed by big bestsellers.

Reedsy

As a reviewer, I have full access to the Reedsy Discovery library of advanced review copies (ARCs) and other member perks. Hundreds of authors have submitted their books for discovery. I have access to the submissions pool and can read and review books before they launch.

I hope to guide the writing and reading community by spotting new trends and deciding which books Discovery recommends for its 200k readers. Not all writers get big publishing contracts, not all big house publications are great. A lot of talent lies in Indie publishing. I am privileged to help these writers in my own small way; I am proud to support independent publishing.

The Editorial Manager of this platform contacted me after reading my blog. My blog, in its previous avatar, and now with a new URL, has always brought me fantastic writing and reading opportunities. I am glad to read and review more books. I hope can identify some good work. As the Reedsy Discovery site for reviewers says: The best books go undiscovered, be part of the movement that shines a light on them.

I can write reviews as often as I like and they will appear in the Discovery newsletters to readers. I will also share book reviews on this blog. The first book I started reading today is an engaging story about magic in the life of a Creole girl. I am sure this will be an exciting journey.

Edge of the Map

It was a sultry afternoon. The day stretched endlessly, waiting for twilight. The orange popsicles stained his tongue but didn’t quench his thirst. He wasn’t sleepy for lack of physical activity. He read books, heard songs on his laptop, played mobile games but time stood still, fatigued by the heat of the Indian summer.

Bored, he picked up his drawing kit and started sketching a treasure map to reach the fabled pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He drew ardently, painstakingly filling vibrant colours in the verdant landscape, flora, and fauna. The emerging terrain captivated him. He paid attention to every tiny detail. The sound of wax crayons against white paper, echoed the unstoppable rhythm in his delicate fingers.

Beyond the tanned mountains, arched the seven colors of mystic beauty. At the corner of the sheet, a speck glimmered. He added final touches to the elusive gold and rested the point of his crayon, in a finishing move, just as the first star of the night rose in the burnished horizon. In the twinkle of its light, with sweat beads on his brow, he sailed through the azure skies, having fallen from the edge of the map.

The Art and the Anguished

Loving Vincent
Loving Vincent, the movie, 2017

When a piece of art is made with utmost dedication and love, it becomes breathtakingly and painfully beautiful. It lingers like a fragrance, an enchantment of the senses, a spell dominating the spirit, leaving the soul craving for more. I recently saw such a tribute of utmost adoration and I cannot get over the loveliness and the depth of what I witnessed.

Loving Vincent,  the 2017 movie is an ambitious and brilliant depiction of the life, hope, struggle, and penultimate despair of the great painter, Vincent van Gogh. The motion picture illustrates the story of the painter in animated oil paintings – 853 paintings rendered in a modern artistic style by a team of 125 artists from around the globe.

Continue reading “The Art and the Anguished”
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