Book Review: What Am I?

What Am I?, Or, The Nature Of Existence, by Alasdair Forsythe

This is the second book by the author I have read [1], and like many of the books in my collection, it deals with questions of logic and existence [2], serving as an apology for the author’s mystical worldview.  In reality, though, this book is bad philosophy masquerading as terrible poetry.  This is the sort of book where it is impossible to conceive that the author could be so willfully self-deceived that he thinks that this work would reflect highly on him.  That is not to say that it is worthless, because the book is useful as an example of the nonsense of contemporary New Age/Buddhist philosophy, in nonsense masquerading as thoughtful paradox, and because the worldview of the author, however defective, is illustrative in his interests in alchemy and related matters, because of his belief in the power of the human imagination and in the supposedly separate existence of subjective reality, a core belief in the author’s solipsistic philosophy that is strangely at odds with the author’s insistence in the worthlessness of memory in attaching us to an external reality that the author views as unknowable.  As is the case with many books of similar kind [3], this is a work that has a lot to say about karma and manages to say it in a more unpleasant manner than most.

The contents of this book are mercifully short–slightly more than 100 pages of laughably bad philosophical poetry.  As entertaining and therapeutic as it would be to mock such poetry as a fellow poet myself, I would rather take a sample at random so that the reader can get a full appreciation of the author’s poetic technique (34):

“All reality is a fractal
With the same pattern
On every level
Of magnification;
So every time you look
At anything
You are also looking
At everything;”

This statement contains much of what makes the book as a whole so laughable.  Taken as poetry, albeit poetry with no sense of rhyme or meter, no lofty ambition in imagery, nothing more than bad prose chopped into lines to make worse poetry.  If the book were written in prose paragraphs as an essay, it would at least be intellectually honest, if not any more accurate, but as poetry it strives to achieve a form that allows it to pass a lower bar of scrutiny in the way that many songs pawn off bad poetry because few people are sufficiently critical to take song lyrics and subject them to serious critical analysis.  This is a book that cries out for critical analysis to expose its intellectual bankruptcy, the fact that a high school or college student first becoming aware of philosophical questions should be embarrassed at what is found here.  The “poems” are ordered in more or less random order and spout of what the author thinks as if he was a teenager pleased to have his works published and read, and not properly embarrassed at the quality of what he has written.

Beyond merely being inaccurate philosophy, woefully self-centered and subjective in its approach, self-refuting in that it claims that only the private internal reality can be known but seeks to convey that magical internal reality to others through the most tedious writing lacking any sort of magic of the kind one expects from good poetry, the book is downright offensive.  It is most offensive when it seeks to argue that rape and war are intense experiences and desirable because they are intense (79).  The moral bankruptcy of such a statement is immensely astounding, as if the author could not conceive of the horrors that last from the PTSD that comes from the experiences of rape and war, the torment of nightmares and intrusive flashbacks, but merely treats them as extremely common because they are extremely desirable, whatever someone might stay who has actually suffered from them.  In such statements, the author moves from merely being laughably clueless in a mildly entertaining fashion to an active supporter of evil and darkness, making this book not only self-refuting but also self-condemning, and making it more inexplicable yet that the author would think this work would reflect in a creditable fashion on him.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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12 Responses to Book Review: What Am I?

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