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A Book of ReasonsReview - A Book of Reasons
A Memoir
by John Vernon
Mariner Books, 1999
Review by Wyndham Perring
Jul 31st 2000 (Volume 4, Issue 31)

Approaching a book review, I read the 'opinions' quoted in the cover blurb. They should give some idea of just what the author is attempting to communicate, and they led me to expect a book about a troubled soul. A brother lost to death, the story of his life and its effect upon all those touched by his very existence.

I was wrong, as I will explain in a moment. However I will now explain that when reviewing any book my appraoch is to consider the reason it was written, the acceptability of the prose, the composition and the writing style. Most important of all is the absolute necessity of presenting to you a review that will be brutally honest and will stop you from buying a book you will not really wish to read, to define the contents and to make you, dear reader, trust me.

The list of Contents shown before the Preface are:

  1. Heat
  2. Tools
  3. Body
  4. Corpse
  5. House
  6. Origins
  7. Coda.
  8. Works Consulted. [Some 14 pages]

The author certainly wishes to inform and instruct. His literary style is easy reading and I drifted through the pages, only to find myself at sea. Not appreciating the position I jumped out of the boat, and discovered myself in only 12 inches of water. The author's ocean of knowledge has little depth and irritation sets in when I find I am being lectured on the creation of a vacuum (Galileo), the invention of the thermometer, the potential sale of his brother Paul's house, and the fact that the Sun loses four million tons of mass every second. 4.3 pounds of this hits our planet, would you believe, again, every second. How to make nails: Did you know that America pioneered machine-made nails in 1790? Tools. The history of tools and the philosophic meaning of tools takes some 46 pages. You, dear reader, may possibly wish to be educated on these matters; I do not. Although we are presumably supposed to be reading something about his late brother Paul, it strikes me that Paul is simply a means of linking these diverse encyclopedia entries together.

Paul, according to the author, was slightly odd. His behavior indicating a flow against the circumstances life presented and Paul's inevitable withdrawal from the pressure. Even during this period, Paul lent his brother $1000 to help him buy a house and then told him not to pay him back. Paul became a recluse, ceased to throw away even his trash, had lots of cats and dogs, and added sinks full of excreta to his problems. The animals all seemed to die and remain in the house, which was filled to the ceiling with filth.

Now, we have all heard about how Howard Hughes used to behave, and every year the press has stories of human beings suffering from some mental problems. That is to say, many people adopt a lifestyle that we, as 'normal' people, find strange. Bearing in mind that before embalming the brain is removed with hooks via the nostrils, a fact I learned during the reading of this book, I have some sympathy for Paul.

If you wish to have some knowledge of Heat/Tools/Bodies/Corpses/Houses and a vague dissertation on how the universe started and may finish, then this may be the book for you. However to put all that knowledge in perspective I suggest you visit a University, find a Professor of Philosophy, and browse the hundreds of learned books in the Library. Given the Readers Digest format of information used in A Book of Reasons, loosely held together with the outline of the life and death of a brother, consider whether you should bother reading it.

Anyway, after reading this review, you will realize I am not encouraging you to rush out to buy the book.

Wyndham Perring is an independent designer and consultant in medical products. He lives in Stratford-upon-Avon, England.


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