by Mathias B. Freese
Again. Again and Again., is a collection of essays and stories which cover a broad spectrum of topics but with some common themes and recurring motifs.
As the sub-title implies, the central concept throughout is awareness whether, of the self, others, or metaphysical. This recognition or ‘awakening’ of awareness is gently probed through musings, memories, and commentary.
The book is beautifully presented and split into three parts. I found the first section the strongest. Freese showcases his natural writing skill and studied philosophies through different forms, subjects, and tones. On a purely aesthetic note, the cover design complements the book perfectly.
Cro-Magnon the opener was cleverly subtle yet wonderfully well-realized without being over-engineered. The Devil Made Me Do it which discusses the role of the unconscious mind primarily regarding writing output was incredibly perceptive and insightful.
Writers are, on the whole, subconsciously aware that there is a zone where something else takes over and guides the narrative to places unplanned or unconsidered. However, to embrace and acknowledge the awareness of this was curiously eye-opening, mentally liberating, and strangely comforting.
My Socrates! was humorous, achingly poignant, and simmering with pathos (as the majority of these essays and stories are). The reader is given Freese’s friend, Dwayne’s imagined perspective, which, contrastingly allows for a greater level of subjectivity. Although this story is not fully ‘meta-Matt’ (where Freese writes of himself as a character), the beginnings are here and it’s an interesting technique.
The ‘meta-Matt’ interludes could be seen, in another writer’s hands, as a touch self-indulgent but Freese’s writing is so intrinsically humble without grandiosity or hyperbole that they work brilliantly. It was obvious that through using himself as a character, Freese can expound a little more; raw honesty abounds throughout Again. Again and Again., but through ‘meta-Matt’, there is greater introspective freedom, an even deeper level of personal understanding, and the ubiquitous awareness, applied and explored through humor and reminiscences.
Aside from being extremely thought-provoking, this collection is also fun to read, and quietly educational. Shot through with literary quotes, snippets of philosophy, history, and general social interest, it gives a reassuring sense of chatty intimacy. Both Piss Pieta and Donato Fabricano Here are excellent examples of this.
Notwithstanding, there are a couple of profoundly uncomfortable moments. The short story Raymonde was all the more affecting because of the brutal, matter-of-fact tone. The conversational Talking to Stellar Soot began amusingly and then was just so crushingly sad and immediate.
In Final Version, Freese refers to the writing of Oliver Sacks as “able, graceful and compelling” and wishes he could write with the same attributes. Undoubtedly, in Again. Again and Again., he has achieved this. There are some beautifully elegant turns of phrase and lovely rhetorical flourishes. The prose flows effortlessly; confident of itself and the knowledge it imparts, without pretension.
Every piece in this book enlightens, inspires, and amuses with sharply considered observations and thoughtful interpretations making Again. Again and Again., thoroughly accessible yet nicely uncompromising. Highly recommended.