I was very excited when I received this book for review from the author. Teacher, psychoterapist and writer, Mathias B. Freese is an admirable author whose writing feels relevant and profound. This Möbius Strip of Ifs is a collection of intelligent, insightful, and inspiring perspectives into topics of great depth and universality like aging, art, meaning, awareness, savings, freedom, death, religion. Reading this book of essays is like having a long after-dinner talk over a glass of wine with one of the elders of your family: it’s so thought-provoking and enlightening in many ways. You will go home that night trying to ponder over how you will change your ways after being made to see that “many of us are unprepared for living until the very hour we die.” And you will remember this talk for a very long time.
But this uncle of yours is not entirely at peace with the world, and you will go to bed that night not only with pearls of wisdom to ponder over forever, but also with a lot of emotional baggage that will weigh heavily on you. The author expresses his anger and frustration with the world in several of essays, and while this shows his vulnerability and humanizes him, at the same time it leaves the reader a bit puzzled. It might be, however, only a fault of organization. There is no noticeable progression of events or evolution of the state of mind in the succession of essays. There is anger followed by understanding and then frustration, and there is insight followed again by blindness. There are life events, marriages, children, deaths that get mixed up. I don’t suppose it was the author’s intention to create a clear map of his life, as much as to share reflections on various important moments, but this apparent lack of order left me questioning the wrong things at the wrong time: I couldn’t focus on the emotional impact of children growing apart from the parents that were once their whole life, because I was wondering from what marriage those children came. It might be just me.
One essay about book bloggers had a bit impact on my lasting impression of this book, maybe because I took it personally. The author is not happy with book bloggers, whom he calls “protohumans blaring forth how culturally and critically wise they are.” The essay is titled “Personal Posturings: Yahoos as Bloggers.” Not only in this piece but throughout the entire book, the author seems to be unable of showing any kindness to the readers and seems little concerned with their feelings. I can justify this attitude by comparing it to that of the teacher who asks of the students to destroy all their preconceived ideas, all they have held dear, so that nothing holds them back as they start on a new path of learning. But, intentionally or not, the book remains a slightly uncomfortable reading, and it needs to find the right readers who can make the sort of commitment it asks of them. It’s like that long talk with the wise uncle who is not sure you are deserving of his wisdom but will impart it anyway. There might be moments when you think you will never last until he’s finished, but you are richly rewarded if you do.
Mathias B. Freese is also the author of the novel The i Tetralogy and the short story collection Down to a Sunless Sea. This Möbius Strip of Ifs is a winner of the Indie Excellence Book Awards.