True Stories of the Philosophical Theater
In his first book, he calls a “nonfiction novel,” Yerucham narrates an engrossing intellectual and spiritual autobiographical novel. Written in a sparse journalistic style, True Stories is like Kerouac’s On the Road narrative, with the endless, repetitive, cyclical journeys, the episodes fragmentary and unresolved, but more learned and spiritual, like the structure of a Tibetan Mandala. Yerucham is a peripatetic soul, the wandering Jew, even ending up in Israel for a time. He studies western philosophy, gives it up; studies poetry with Ginsberg in New York, but decides to hit the road; visits and lives in a myriad of the spiritual places around the world for many years, a kind of crazed Lonely Planet-style traveler one encounters in India’s bottom budget lodges. With his depressions, breakdowns, horrible sicknesses, along the way, it’s only movement that alleviates these chronic physical and mental ailments. He’s autodidactic, much like the fictional Larry Durrell in Maugham’s Razor’s Edge, studying all cultures and taking whatever they might offer. In the end, like Larry (who finally drives a taxi), Yerucham, with new wife and daughter in tow, returns to the United States looking for a job.
Along the way, exploring the “philosophical theater,” we visit many places, meet many people, both locals and travelers, and perhaps discover, as the author hopes, “Deeper truths are often found in fiction than in fact, but when truths found in fiction are combined with strict veracity of narrative, the returns are doubled.”
As a mystic, Yerucham once renounced writing, but in a “return to western philosophy,” well earned, but now with “purer mind with holier motivations,” we have this book. This is no microwave package of Eat, Pray, Love, but more a gourmand‘s search, if not for enlightenment, at least, for peace of mind, for simplicity in the midst of complexity inside and outside. Recommended for readers who care about the people and the quests mentioned in this review.