Tag Archives: Writing

Heed The Call Or Let It Go To Voicemail?

Hi Literopathy,

I’m smack dab in the middle of my life; a mother, wife and dutiful employee. I have heard the call of my heart, career wise (life wise, spirit wise) but don’t know how to move from where I’m at to where I believe I need to be. The call is powerful and potent, but the restrictions are things of my own choosing and things I love and can’t give up. Do I heed the call of the universe, and do what I’m supposed to do? If so, how? Or do I tend to practical things only. It seems so late in life to make such changes. What should I read to help me make my future clear?



Dear H,

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a crystal ball, to just feel sure of where we’re going and what we’re doing? To have a goal, to know we’re meant for great things, that all this humdrum and routine bullshit is actually worth something, actually going somewhere? Aren’t we all adventurers in our own special ways?

And when we can’t be adventuring, when we really can’t make the endless piles of paperwork, red tape, dirty diapers and dishes turn magically into creative fodder and ambitious design, don’t we deserve to rekindle our lust for that spark? It’s that spark, after all, that joy of adventuring into the unknown, that gets us up in the morning, that drives us through the day. Don’t we all wish we could be the protagonists of our stories, constantly hurled into a set of coincidences that force us into action, plot devices that not only pause our dull lives but alter their courses forever?

The books that I’m about to recommend are not what one might call ‘works of literary genius.’ They haven’t won (too many) prizes, or brought in accolades. In fact, some of them have been criticized a fair bit, and for good reason. If you’re not willing to fly by the seat of your pants, let go of disbelief and truly adventure, these books aren’t going to do it for you. But, trust me on this one, if you’re ready for change and adventure, these are the books you’re looking for.  When I (the person writing this prescription, not the entire group) read them in my 20s, they completely turned my life around because I was able to look past the flaws in the writing and grasp the message that was being put forth. I was able to turn the inspiration inward to myself. These books gave me hope that I, too, could find that kind of hope, adventure, love, strength, definition in my life. They made me believe that I, too, could find change, if only I could even just briefly let go of the practical things in my life that needed my attention..

The important thing to remember is that to experience a change, you have to be open to it. You have to be ready to see it. And we cannot see change if we’re knee-deep in laundry, wishing that the universe would just tell us already what the heck we’re doing here. But the universe isn’t always so obliging, is it? “Be the change you want to see in the world,” someone important once said, and as trite as that sounds, sometimes it’s what we need to do in order to build the lives that we want.

With all of this in mind, dear mid-life, routinized-to-death reader, here is a book that may convince you that you don’t have to give up the daily grind in order to follow your calling. You have the ability to do both, if you just put faith in yourself and invite life and all its unpredictability in, even just a little bit.

All of this is to explain why our prescription for you is James Redfield’s The Celestine Prophecy.

Here’s the blurb on Goodreads (and I share it in its entirety for a reason, stand by.)

The Celestine Prophecy contains secrets that are currently changing our world. Drawing on ancient wisdom, it tells you how to make connections among the events happening in your own life right now…and lets you see what is going to happen to you in the years to come!

A book that has been passed from hand to hand, from friend to friend, since it first appeared in small bookshops across America, The Celestine Prophecy is a work that has come to light at a time when the world deeply needs to read its words. The story it tells is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life…and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimism as you head into tomorrow.

In 2005, a friend of mine, a reporter I knew, handed me this book (along with Tom Robbins’ Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates, which you should also read). It was wrapped with a bow and everything, but it wasn’t a present. “You need to read this now, I think,” he said.

And he was right.

A reviewer sums it up fairly well: “On first read, I wanted to throw it in the bin. On the second read, I let go of the fact that it was badly written and the characters were bad and all the other flaws. I don’t think it was ever intended to be a work of literary wonder but as an accessible vehicle for ideas.”

And that’s what it looks like you’re looking for. Ideas. Not even Redfield’s ideas, but your own ideas. In this way, your reading experience will mimic the actual prescription for you, which is, let go a little bit, let the small stuff slide, don’t be so critical (of yourself), and allow others to help you find your way.

Now, if you really, truly hate this book (because a lot of people do – I’m going out on a limb here, recommending it to you), may I also suggest the aforementioned Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates. It’s like The Celestine Prophecy only better written and funnier.

Here’s a brief synopsis:

Switters is a contradiction for all seasons: an anarchist who works for the government; a pacifist who carries a gun; a vegetarian who sops up ham gravy; a cyberwhiz who hates computers; a man who, though obsessed with the preservation of innocence, is aching to deflower his high-school-age stepsister (only to become equally enamored of a nun ten years his senior). Yet there is nothing remotely wishy-washy about Switters. He doesn’t merely pack a pistol. He is a pistol. And as we dog Switters’s strangely elevated heels across four continents, in and out of love and danger, discovering in the process the “true” Third Secret of Fatima, we experience Tom Robbins—that fearless storyteller, spiritual renegade, and verbal break dancer—at the top of his game. On one level this is a fast-paced CIA adventure story with comic overtones; on another it’s a serious novel of ideas that brings the Big Picture into unexpected focus; but perhaps more than anything else, Fierce Invalids is a sexy celebration of language and life.

Should both of those books fail you, there is also and always Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach.

To wit:

This is a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than ever they dreamed.

Hey, at least I didn’t recommend any Deepak Chopra, right?


We must assume every event has significance and contains a message that pertains to our questions…this especially applies to what we used to call bad things…the challenge is to find the silver lining in every event, no matter how negative. – James Redfield, The Celestine Prophecy

Books To Cure Insomnia

Dear Literopathy,

I have terrible sleep deprivation … what would you suggest?


D in the UK

Dear D,

There is absolutely nothing worse than a bad case of insomnia. Well, possibly there are a few things worse than insomnia but, in our opinion, that list is short. There’s a reason that sleep deprivation is used as a method of torture.

One of the especially awful things about insomnia is that, unless you’ve been there, you don’t get it. And honestly, not getting it is fine – as long as you realize that you don’t get it and you don’t try to offer (usually obvious) solutions for someone else’s lack of sleep. Insomniacs have to suffer through hours of well-intentioned suggestions, ranging from drinking warm milk to practicing yoga to entirely giving up caffeine (pardon us while we shudder at the thought). We here at Literopathy won’t offer you anything like that – we realize that sometimes you just can’t sleep and, short of taking horse tranquilizers (which we don’t recommend), that’s that. But we also know that sometimes, the unwilling body can be coaxed, maybe even tricked, into sleep. So we did our best to find a book that will work for both scenarios.

Our prescription for you is Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. This thousand-page tome has been called “Harry Potter for grownups” (which is ridiculous, because we all know that Harry Potter is for people of almost any age), and centres around two men determined to bring magic, which has been absent for hundreds of years, back to England. The storyline is an alternative English history set during the Napoleonic Wars, with Mr. Norrell and his pupil Jonathan Strange using their skills as magicians to aid the English campaign. Its characters are complex and the the world it’s set in is rich with historical details. Oh and it’s full of footnotes. Fascinating, often hilarious footnotes.

What we love about this book is that the magic (much like sleep) is elusive, unpredictable and otherworldly. Although humans try to harness it for their own purposes, the fact is that magic is the element of Fairy and can only truly be understood by its inhabitants. Unlike in other works of fantasy, magic in Clarke’s novel isn’t just a convenient replacement for technology, it’s a force – a frightening, dangerous force, to be treated with a great deal of respect.

We recommend this book to you for three reasons. First of all, it’s interesting enough to occupy you during a long, wakeful night. Second of all, it’s dense enough to help lull you to sleep on nights when rest is elusive but not entirely impossible. Third of all, we think that you, as a current inhabitant of the United Kingdom, will get a kick out of its exploration of the idea of Englishness. For example, as Jonathan Strange explains, an Englishman would  be respectful with how he uses magic:

“Can a magician kill a man by magic?” Lord Wellington asked Strange. Strange frowned. He seemed to dislike the question. “I suppose a magician might,” he admitted, “but a gentleman never would.”

A gentleman would, however, spend his long, sleepless nights poring over the pages of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Even if you’re not a gentleman (a term that we’re not exactly sure that we approve of, anyway, or even fully understand), we think that this book will help.

For our readers, is that what you would have suggested? Or do you have another book in mind?



There is nothing else in magic but the wild thought of the bird as it casts itself into the void. There is no creature upon the earth with such potential for magic. Even the least of them may fly straight out of this world and come by chance to the Other Lands. Where does the wind come from that blows upon your face, that fans the pages of your book? Where the harum-scarum magic of small wild creatures meets the magic of Man, where the language of the wind and the rain and the trees can be understood, there we will find the Raven King.

I Do Everything In Excess

Dear Literopathy:

I tend to do everything in excess. I drink too much alcohol, I eat too much food, I smoke weed (when I have it) constantly…

How can I go about reducing what I believe is a compulsive behavior (in addition to going to psychiatrists and therapists)?


Smokes, Drinks and Eats Too Much


We entertained thoughts of recommending several different novels to you, but they all seemed to glorify or encourage the kinds of behaviors that you say you want to reduce. We also toyed with the idea of recommending self-help books to you, but that feels like more of a job for the therapists you speak of going to. So we thought it most fitting to steer you towards a good memoir. Speaking from our own experiences, sometimes there is nothing more helpful than hearing the story of someone that you can relate to and identify with– someone who has been and there and done that and found a way to overcome it.

With that in mind, we’d like to prescribe to you Augusten Borrough’s Dry. Dry is a sarcastic and honest look at the author’s attempt to get sober from alcohol, only to find that his compulsive behavior extends to other things, like sex, relationships, and work, too. Sometimes it takes someone else’s moment of clarity to help us reach our own. He cuts to the truth of where it comes from when he says,


I’m lonely. And I’m lonely in some horribly deep way and for a flash of an instant, I can see just how lonely, and how deep this feeling runs. And it scares the shit out of me to be this lonely because it seems catastrophic.

Because, at the heart of it, isn’t most compulsive and self-destructive behavior an attempt to fill some kind of internal void? Don’t we often continue to seek out external solutions in the hope that the pain we feel somewhere inside ourselves will finally go away? “Just one more drink and I’ll feel better. Another hit and I’ll be numb.” And on and on and on ad infinitum. It’s wonderful, heartwarming, and wildly entertaining to read as Borroughs manages to find happiness and serenity within himself, though he has to go down a dark path to get there.

If dry wit (pun intended?) is not something you’re in the mood for, another remedy might be I Am Jennie by Jennie Ketcham. Jennie, formerly the porn star known as Penny Flame, speaks frankly and candidly about her sex, drug, and alcohol addictions. She says,

I am into anything that you put in front of me, whether it’s human, whether it’s substance, whether it’s a good decision or bad decision and I follow it through. I do it to my own detriment. I do it until I hurt myself.

She decides to appear on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew with hopes of boosting her flagging career but instead ends up discovering that she is more broken than she originally thought. What follows is the brutally honest and brave account of how she fought her way out from under through hard work, humility, and art. You can’t help but feel inspired after hearing her talk about how far she’s come.

We all have our own paths to fulfillment and some of us self-medicate while we try to find our way there. Here’s hoping that one of these books hits home for you and, at the very least, makes you feel better about your own compulsions by showing you that some people are WAY worse!

What about you, dear readers? Do you have a book that you think will do the trick better than the ones we’ve prescribed? Let us know in the comments!


Sex, Consent and Teenage Boys

Dear Literopathy,

You have arrived in my life at the most perfect time! (Thanks for that).

Here’s my query, I have a 12 year old son. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and researching and (I now know that) whatever is your first thing that turns you on will shape what turns you on for the rest of your life. This is a problem because of all the explicit porn online that kids are exposed to – even if they’re not looking for it. I don’t want my son (or other kids) to have a weird/horrible sex association so I am looking for a book I can give him to read that will do the trick for him (if you know what I mean) and that promotes respectful, consensual, loving and desirous sexual couplings!

Books were my first introduction to the world of sex and all my kids are readers – so – can you suggest something appropriate for a near teenager?

Many thanks!!!



Dear T.G.,

As much as we like sexy books, we’re not comfortable with recommending them for your teenager. We feel strongly that he should have the joy of discovering them himself at his own pace. But wanting your kid to grow into his sexuality in a positive way is commendable, and we do want to help.

It’s understandable to be anxious about how your kid’s sexuality is going to develop, because there’s a lot of terrible information out there for him to stumble across. But alas, you can’t control what he has access to for much longer. And you definitely can’t control what’s going to turn him on when he grows up, or even what’s going to turn him on right now. It’s also too soon for you to know for sure whether he’s straight, gay, or something else entirely. Some kids realize their orientation really early, but others only grow into that knowledge over time.

What you can do is make sure that he gets excellent information about the importance of consent, mutual respect, and healthy masculinity. And not just once; you’re going to want to give him this information over and over in different contexts. A well-selected book can definitely help these conversations along.

Right this moment, your Literopathy prescription is for Mavis Jukes’ The Guy Book: An Owner’s Manual (Maintenance, Safety, and Operating Instructions for Teens) by Mavis Jukes.

The Guy Book has all that necessary information about puberty and changing bodies and safe sex that every teen should have a reference book at hand for. But this book isn’t limited to reproductive health basics. There’s also some really great information about relationships (romantic and otherwise) and how to navigate confusing emotions.

Boys are often discouraged from expressing (and feeling) certain emotions, such as sadness, fear, and anxiety. But we need to get real with each other. Everybody experiences feelings of sadness, vulnerability, lonliness, fear, anxiety, shame, and confusion at one time or another.

Both boys and girls (and men and women) feel all ways: strong and weak, powerful and vulnerable, confident and insecure, courageous and afraid.

These are human feelings. They’re not attached to a particular gender.”

There’s detailed, age-appropriate stuff in here about consent, body image, media literacy, self-care, locker-room talk, and more.

This is your prescription, not just your son’s. Read it yourself before you give it to him, so you can talk about what it’s for and be prepared for any questions he might have about what’s inside.

You might want to make a practice of having a family library of reference books that are available to your kids but haven’t explicitly been given to them. Not just about sex, either. Dinosaurs are awesome. So are memoirs. So is space travel. Wars are not so awesome, but knowing about them is important. So we recommend placing your growing reference collection (however small it is to start) on a shelf they can get at (if you have younger kids pick one that’s too tall for them for any more mature content) and they’ll reach for them when they’re ready. Let their curiosity lead the way.

When you’re ready to start filling out that reference shelf, Jukes has another book called It’s A Girl Thing that may come in handy if your son is curious about what’s going on with the other half of humanity. And when he gets a few years older, Heather Corinna (founder of comprehensive sex-ed site Scarleteen) has written S.E.X.: The All‐you‐need‐to‐know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You through High School and College, which cannot be praised highly enough.

As your son starts exploring his sexuality, he’ll need this kind of foundation knowledge to help him sift through everything available to him and determine what’s true, what appropriate for him, and what he can confidently ignore. Who knows, he may end up being the kid who’s in-the-know and who shares information with his peers that makes them all safer and wiser and more excellent to one another. And wouldn’t that be the most wonderful thing?


“I Keep Marrying Narcissistic Colombians”

Dear Literopathy,

Here’s my problem: I keep marrying Colombians with varying degrees of NPD (narcissistic personality disorder). No seriously. Stop laughing.

Recommended reading to resolve a fucked up love life?


Your Twice-Divorced (Irish) Twitter Friend

Dear TD(I)TF,

When love fails again and again, it’s easy to give in to the idea that it just wasn’t meant to be in this lifetime—that somehow love is meant for other people. For people who know how to do it “right.”

We call bullshit.

Narcissistic Colombians are a problem—no one is denying it. But so are narcissistic Americans, Canadians, and—we suspect—even Lithuanians. They’re everywhere, and they’re really good at pretending and at preying on hope.

That’s why our prescription for you is Barbara Kingsolver’s 1990 novel, Animal Dreams. Its protagonist, Cosima “Codi” Noline, is all out of hope when she returns to her home town of Grace, Arizona. She never got the hang of love, and frankly, she’s over it. The fact that her high school sweetheart, Loyd, is still living in Grace, still hot, and seems to have grown up into a decent human is not an issue at all, because Codi isn’t staying.

The problem is, she doesn’t know where she’s going.

And really, where do we, any of us, think we’re going when we’re so certain that the solution lies somewhere else? Somewhere outside of us?

Maybe what we’re looking for won’t be found in whatever place we’re aiming to reach, but rather in the effort that it takes to get there. Maybe it’s the journey that keeps us going. Or, as Codi’s sister Hallie tells her,

What keeps you going isn’t some fine destination but just the road you’re on, and the fact that you know how to drive. You keep your eyes open, you see this damned-to-hell world you got born into, and you ask yourself, ‘What life can I live that will let me breathe in and out and love somebody or something and not run off screaming into the woods?’

While researching this book for you, we ran across a review on Good Reads that seemed to sum up why this book is—and books in general are—good medicine:

“It’s probably silly to say that the moral of a story is that sometimes life chooses you, since fictional characters are by nature figments of imagination, and get to enjoy the plotting out and tidying up that their authors are wont to do for them. But maybe belief in fiction is an extension of belief in an interventionist God.

Maybe the reason this book left me sobbing and shaken is that it gives the right answer. Isn’t that why we read novels — in the hopes that someone else’s imagined life will provide the answers for our own questions? We take books like medicine. But like medicine, it’s still practice … no one’s promising that this time, this cure will work for me, or for you. We can only keep trying for that perfect, elusive match of cure to symptom.” 

TD(I)TF, our hope for you is that Codi Noline speaks to that part of you that, perhaps, thinks love is a lie or meant for someone else. We hope this book provides that spark of fire within you that rekindles every bit of hope and love those narcissists stole from you.

Or, as Barbara Kingsolver wrote in Animal Dreams,

The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.