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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page. She has written and produced two chamber operas, premiered in Utrecht, Netherlands. See her publication list for more.
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Bon Journal Review

Spirit Matters, by Matt Pallamary

It's been a while since I've written a book review. My interests these days are to do with opera, and opera has nothing to do with new books, especially works of lesser established authors. More people write reviews of books than opera. You can join the online book club Goodreads and write your own review. Others can easily comment on it. There doesn't seem to be a need for me to write book reviews the old fashion way, i.e. on Dreamweaver and in HTML code.

Still, Matthew Pallamary's new book, entitled "Spirit Matters" caught my attention. What is spirit? Is it about matters of spirit or is it that spirit DOES matter?

Since it's a memoir, I read it like a memoir ---- an account of the author's beginnings and the journey to where he's at now. I received the book in mid-September and only just yesterday finished it. Not that it took me THAT long to read it, but it required pacing. Or rather, it's not a book to read in one go.

Pallamary does a good job of writing 53 short, digestible chapters of his life. The last paragraph gives a nice close to the current chapter and a taster to the next chapter. It's the formula of soap operas, to make sure you come back for more. I'm certain good writers employ this trick.

The first half of the book took me three months to read. It's hard to relate to drugs, drug trafficking, crime, getting away with it, and the sort of life that I have absolutely no clue or interest in. Where I live, here in the Netherlands, cannabis is easily accessible. Just go to a coffee shop. Or get it from anyone who is smoking it in the streets. If this was going to be his entire memoir, I would have wasted my time. I persisted because I said I would. And because I was curious --- what do drugs have to do with spirit?

Sure enough, half way through, I saw that he cleaned himself up. Now it got interesting, for I approve of a clean life, free of drugs. How does one end a youth of getting regularly stoned and drunk to become a devout vegetarian keen on yoga, martial arts, and creative writing? I have wanted to become 100% vegetarian for years but only managed to succeed at being a secondary vegetarian (i.e. eating those animals that eat vegetables). Yoga has been good for me, and I can see how it helped him focus. The tip I got from his creative writing was to join a writing discussion group to get feedback.

Pallamary's quest for truth, to learn everything he could about shamanism and hallucinatory natural plants led him to consult with the experts. I am on that quest now --- for cultural economics and creative entrepreneurship --- a totally different subject. But I can learn from his razor beam focus. He read as much as he could. Eventually he went to a conference to meet with other like-minded individuals.

One of his main messages was that plenty of natural plants give you a hallucinatory trip. Marijuana is only one of them, yet it is illegal. It shouldn't be, he says. And from there he goes into the depths of shamanism, a prehistoric belief system.

Now I will not win in a debate on the legalisation of natural hallucinatory plants. Personally I resent having to smell it whenever I go to Amsterdam. The smell lingers around train stations, bus stops, tram stops, and outside coffee shops.

Having said that, I see nothing wrong with drinking Peruvian matte tea. It's been said that the leaves come from the same plant used to make cocaine. The customs officer at Houston's international airport discovered and confiscated my unopened box of matte tea bags which I had innocently bought in a shop in Lima. When I tried to argue with him, he threatened to put me in jail. Luckily I had hidden two bundles of loose coco tea leaves among my dirty laundry in my other suitcase. These dried green leaves are now over ten years old and have probably lost their energy-boosting effects. Perhaps it's the closest I'll ever get to the Pallamary trip, short of returning to South America to visit the Amazon jungle someday.

14 December 2008

Related links:
Bon Journal Reviews
analyticalQ Book Reviews
Matt Pallamary website