Since childhood, Rick Kline has had a “Is this all there is” attitude to life. He suffers from “divine discontent”. He’s very clever, and successful in his work life, but this nagging feeling of lack can lead to black moods, to times when he has to force himself to get out of bed, and to ruptured relationships with women. When he returns to Sydney after working in London, his brother unexpectedly dies, but even then, Rick can’t cry. He gets some relief through seeing an interesting therapist and through meditation, but it’s not until a chance experience with an Indian guru - a small dark woman - that his journey into the healing world of Vedantic wisdom really begins. This is fascinating if these things intrigue you, but if the Ground of Knowing is not your thing, you’ll probably want to give this a miss. Personally, I think it’s terrific. Lohrey necessarily concentrates on Rick and his journey, writing chapters alternately in the first and third person, which is at the expense of developing other characters, such as his wife and son, but the erudition she brings to her subject is worth it. It’s a roadmap to understanding a healthier way to inhabit our psyches.
A Short History of Richard Kline was an interesting read and I enjoyed it but I’m slightly confused as to what Amanda Lohrey was suggesting. I guessing the story was a comment on something within our society or humans in general but it could have been a comment on the powers of special people of influence, with which I would have a problem. I support Amanda if she was suggesting people can grow as they age and overcome internal anxiety or explore spirituality and the benefits of meditation. However, I cannot support the notion of the woman portrayed in the book who touched others and has some kind of super powers that can heal or predict events. As it happens I have been meditating on and off for several decades and it is a great activity, as is Yoga. Increasing your mindfulness is a great way to prevent anxiety and improve physical and mental health. For that alone I would suggest others should read Amanda’s book.
A Short History of Richard Kline is the story of one man’s search for meaning, a spiritual journey. Richard Kline is a middle-aged man living in Sydney who feels something lots of people in the modern world can identify with – that there’s something missing in his life. It is the classic mid-life crisis. “Today I would say that for much of my life I suffered from an apprehension of lack,” he tells us. Looking back at his childhood, he tries religion, then science, then sex and girls in his search for some sort of meaning. The story travels fairly quickly, mainly in first person, through his teenage years, twenties, marriage, children and work overseas. He sees doctors for depression and then tries meditation and finally ‘cracks open’ with uncontrollable tears in the presence of of an Indian spiritual guru in a suburban church hall. So begins Richard’s quest for spiritual enlightenment with his own local guru. Lohrey’s writing is beautifully evocative and often wise and I enjoyed the many scenes where she picked apart the way people behave. But the spiritual enlightenment stuff just left me cold. At the writers festival, she said that Australia didn’t have much of a tradition of the meta-physical novel and I wondered at the time if readers like me are the reason why. Other reviews have noted that this story is an allegory – a literary device to convey hidden meanings through symbolic actions. I do wonder if this story would have been better as a memoir-style book about searching for spiritual meaning and travels through the gamut of Eastern philosophies. While I enjoyed reading many of the scenes, Richard’s inner journey just wasn’t compelling enough to engage me in this story. But Lohrey’s writing is lovely enough for me to try some of her other works, with Camille’s Bread the most popular.