Proust is one of those authors like Anais Nin, Dostoevsky and Victor Hugo who separate the chicken readers from the chicken hawks. Do you have the mental stamina and intellectual acumen to take them on? Do you have the time? I attempted a run at Proust in my teenaged blue-stocking period when I was determined to prove myself an intellectual heavy-weight. Failed in the first round. Lost the will to live. But here is a little gem that gives you a soupcon of his brilliance without you having to make a seven-course meal of In Search of Lost Time. De Botton's book is not the "dazzling" work John Updike and various critics claim it to be - the mere mention of Proust creates shock and awe in others - and I'm not entirely convinced that the author critic has actually read Proust as most of his quotes come from letters, diaries, critical pieces, friends' memoirs and so on, in other words secondary not primary material; however, it is a charming, entertaining and thought-provoking work - aussi trés amusant - and I suspect Proust would have liked it. Best of all, it has encouraged me to take another look at that daunting writer. Perhaps. Maybe. Oh God ... life is too short ...
I wrote an article about the year I am spending at Jampa Ling Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the green countryside of County Cavan. It has been published in the April/May/June edition of Network, Ireland's holistic magazine which publishes mind, body, spirit and ecology pieces. It also advertises all the weird and wonderful workshops, events, retreats, and talks available in the Irish alternative community. Under new management, the magazine has a glossier look with full colour graphics and is well worth subscribing to. Here's their website: www.networkmagazine.ie. I did mention I was helping to run a Tibetan Buddhist Centre this year, didn't I? It's not exactly a sabbatical as I am writing copious notes for my next book which will tell of my relationship with my teacher, Panchen Otrul Rinpoche, including travels in his company to India (last year) and Outer Mongolia (this year). In my mind, the book is a cross between Herman Hesse's Journey to the East and Andrew Harvey's Hidden Journey. But will it be fiction or non-fiction? That is the question. Won't know for sure until I am well into the writing of it.
So I fire up the google news today and what do I find? A meth-dealing Catholic priest who laundered his ill-gotten gains through his sex toy shop and a book written by a survivor of the Church of Scientology - the niece of the head of Scientology no less - exposing a childhood of hard labour, cruelty and abuse. You couldn't make this stuff up. The priest is looking at 14 years and the book is called Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and my Harrowing Escape. So, what am I talking about here? Cults who abuse children in the name of religion and whose upper echelons remain untouched by law.
I was born in Ireland and grew up in Toronto, Canada with my seven sisters and two brothers. Left home at seventeen to live in a commune, then headed off across Canada with my pal, Carole, and we hitch-hiked around California for months, then back up to Vancouver(Van as we called it then) and across Canada with two more pals, Linda and Peggy. A year later, headed off to Malaysia and Borneo with Jeunesse Canada Monde/Canada World Youth for a year. Baik-lah! Back home, went to Trinity College at the University of Toronto (posh blokes) while also joining the Canadian Naval Reserve as an Officer Cadet. Trained on the east and west coasts of Canada every summer. Great fun. Then what? Hmm. Started to write books, dodgy personal life (that's personal but let's just say it's been a long time between drinks) started to wander around the world, had a darling daughter, settled down in Ireland, wrote more books.