About three weeks ago I was contacted by the publicist for the book “Icarus Of Brooklyn” and asked if I’d like to review it for my website. I had reviewed the author’s earlier work, “God Part Of The Brain”. You can read that review here. I was flattered to be asked, and, after telling him he likely made a mistake because I am not read by that many people, I assured him if he wanted to send me a copy I would certainly read and review it. I received a digital copy of the book the next day. (This was both shocking and a little disappointing, as anyone who knows me understands I always want a copy of what I’ve read to display, like a trophy, and shocking because I expected to get a week or so for the delivery of said paperback).
Despite teaching six classes this semester (and the feeling of being overwhelmed that comes with it) I dove in, again, largely due to wanting to respect the honor bestowed upon me. I devoted a little time each night to reading a few pages. I finished the book last night, and I assure you, it shouldn’t take anyone that long to read it. For starters, it isn’t a long book, less than two hundred pages. Second, it is written in such a manner that it is both interesting and at times lyrical. I imagine had I not been teaching quite as much, I would have finished it much more quickly.
To describe the book, I will first use its descriptive from the back cover:
Icarus of Brooklyn is the true story of a young man’s spiritual journey that charts a tumultuous course from childhood to teenage angst to drug induced madness. It is a philosophical tale that addresses Man’s universal quest for meaning and purpose- equal parts comic and tragic, absurd and sublime.
There is a great deal of truth in the synopsis: For starters it is the author’s life. It addresses his struggle, from early in life, to find the true meaning of life, and although that struggle doesn’t dissipate, he later moves to the task of struggling to find purpose. One of my favorite quotes from the book captures this: “What could we terrestrial monkeys, we brutes know about absolute truth? Everything we consider real or true is an invention, a concoction, subjective. Absolute truths are beyond the scope or bounds of human reason.” The book goes beyond this with some of the tenets of existential philosophy beyond the issues above, such as grasping the meaning of death, as well.
I found much of the material amusing. I’m not sure if everyone will relate, but because I am roughly the same age as the author, many of the stories struck a funny cord with me. I related to the author in many ways, from some of the cultural allusions of the time to his thoughts and realizations, and to his interactions with family and friends. I’m sure most, even those significantly younger than I will find some of the book amusing.
As I began the book I perceived it as an explanation to how he came to be so interested in whether or not there is a god, and go on to write his work “The God Part Of The Brain”. He discusses how as a child science explains away his fears, his beliefs in monsters and other supernatural beings. This obviously parallels his other book. As I mention in my recent post “Why Don’t I Just Shut Up: The Extended Version” I am very interested of late in how people come to their theories. Reading his book has motivated me to begin work on another book where I explain how I came to write “Addiction: A Human Experience” (I had actually begun a book like that, which the addiction book, to some extent, came from).
But back to this review…overall I liked the book. I enjoyed the philosophical aspects, its relation to existentialism. I enjoyed gaining understanding as to how he came to write his previous book. I related to it, which often makes for a good reading. If there was anything I didn’t like, it was the end. In order not to ruin it for anyone I will speak generally. One weakness I found in the end was it was too abrupt. Interestingly, I had a similar criticism of his previous book, “The God Part of The Brain”. Some of lack of enthusiasm for the end may also have to do with my own personal biases. I simply expected, after the journey he had been through, something more epic. But that often is how life is, and again reflects both existential thought and, in my opinion, the ideas of Object Relations Theory; we project our own inner thoughts onto what we see.
I would certainly be interested in hearing others opinions of the book (again, of course, without ruining it for anyone reading).