Oct 16, 2012

Book Review: The Man in the Empty Boat by Mark Salzman

Title: The Man in the Empty Boat by Mark Salzman
Published February 14, 2012; paperback by Open Road
Genre: memoir

Easy reading, smooth writing. This memoir shows the writer reaching his philosophy of life - man  as an empty boat rocked, nudged, and moved by cosmic forces that are outside of his control.

Mark Salzman records and comments on the events in his life that lead him to the conclusion that we are not really in control of our lives, since our genes, the environment, social conditioning, events that happen to us, and so on, dictate who we are, what we become, and what we can or cannot do.

Mark inherits his family's tendency to depression and anxiety. A recurring back injury forces him to abandon the martial arts that he studied. A successful book (which I have read and liked), Iron and Silk, resulted from his experience teaching English and learning martial arts in China.  Since then, however, he has had trouble producing a book that his publisher will accept, until now.

A breakthrough came, a revelation that helps him explain his life and the tragedy of his family dynamics that includes a death in the family. The one stability in his life is his wife, Jessica Yu, a film director, and his two young daughters. Mark concludes that cosmic forces and nature control life and that he is just a Man in an Empty Boat, being moved around by the tides, with no input from him on a change of course or direction. A fatalistic point of view that somehow helps relieve the anxieties of life.

I found this "philosophical"view particularly Asian or Buddhist, as Buddhism sees life as predetermined or predestined. However, Mark professes to no religion. For an enlightening memoir, thoughts on life and how he coped with anxieties, do read The Man in the Empty Boat. I gave it a 4 out of 5 stars.

A complimentary copy of this book was sent to me for review.


Zibilee said...

I don't know, something about just being a man in a boat with no power at all would make me more anxious! I pray a lot when I get anxiety, and I am always comforted by that. Still, it would be nice to read this one and see if any of his tips stick! Great review today!

Suko said...

Interesting sounding book and review! Definitely food for thought here.

The Bookworm said...

This sounds like an interesting memoir. "just a Man in an Empty Boat, being moved around by the tides"...It's true, some things are just beyond our control.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I've enjoyed this author in the past and wasn't aware he had a memoir. interesting

Staci said...

I would freak out being in a boat with no control!!

Anonymous said...

I agree with Zibilee. Even think about being on an empty boat with no control makes me feel anxious! The book does have some appeal, but I wonder if I'd find it sad?

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