There’s a time for everything, I guess, and for Steven Pressfield’s latest book that time is now, in the New Year, when all things are possible for the coming 12 months.
So, I was happy to read this book today, but I think if I’m honest, at any other time of year I’d have been less pleased. The problem is that our Steve has gone all spiritual. It’s one thing to say that there is a daimon that infests all of us and is not satisfied until we find our true calling as an artist. Metaphorically, sure, I’m with you there, Steve. But he’s not speaking metaphorically. He really thinks a spirit does this with a divine purpose in mind. As evidence he cites Jewish myths, Buddhist doctrine and the Garden of Eden in amongst his references to Bruce Springsteen, the Stones and Henry Miller. And although the book is 175 pages long, every page is its own chapter with a heading. The end result is it feels like one of those cheesy motivational desk dairies with a truism to tear off every day… or a book cobbled together from old blog posts.
There is some truth in what he says. Pressfield is on to something when he talks about the muse taking over and the role of the artist being to shuttle between the material world of the here and now and the subconscious world of the imagination, and that this daily commute is not only worthwhile for society, but is a calling for the individual artist that if you don’t heed, you’ll regret.
I get that.
I just don’t get the divine stuff.
No. 1 of 100 books I intend to read in 2019.
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Patrick Sherriff publishes a monthly newsletter highlighting good fiction published in English about Japan. He lives in Abiko with his wife and two daughters.