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S. Yerucham
𝑻𝒓𝒖𝒆 𝑺𝒕𝒐𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒔 𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒉𝒆 𝑷𝒉𝒊𝒍𝒐𝒔𝒐𝒑𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒂𝒍 𝑻ð’
S. Yerucham, author
An eighteen year old chameleon abandons academic philosophy and a small town for New York City in 1981, and for two years is immersed in bohemian life while working in a bar on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. Moving on to other jobs and peculiar relationships, his mind becomes perceptually clogged, and so he haphazardly pursues madness in an attempt to experience life "Apparelled in celestial light" once again. The experiment is a destructive success, and he's tossed through several historical calamities while quickly learning the mad breakthrough was only a beginning. Embracing world philosophy and religion, he travels alone to India for six months, but it ends up a sixteen year migratory journey through nine countries, the latter thirteen years exiled in Asia, an exile filled with danger, love, farcical mishaps, and a passion for goodness, wisdom, and genuine identity. The story concludes one year after his scrappy return (but not alone) to America. Fourteen years later, the narrative jumps to a postscript. Many stories have been told of self-discovery and coming of age in the sixties, and rightly so. But this contemporary nonfiction novel, a novel as much about people and places as ideas, follows the path of a child of those days into the eighties and beyond. Encountering many renowned radical teachers, great spiritual masters, and anonymous holy people, he concludes that all received doctrines and illusive social fads are inadequate fragments for living a life of truth. Deftly assembling the pieces of a fragmented time, a fragmented soul, and fragmented popular beliefs, Philosophical Theater is both an antidote and homage to our era. Five books complete in one volume.
Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review



A brilliantly written nonfiction account of a man’s search for meaning in the odd picaresque of his life.

Yerucham’s memoir chronicles sex, drugs, madness, and spiritual questing.

The author revisits his life from 1981 to 2022, starting with his move from Wyoming to New York City at the age of 18 to be a writer. Yerucham had to make a living, and the book opens with his stint working at the City Lights Bar in the Windows on the World restaurant atop the World Trade Center, characterized by the author as a hothouse of grizzled immigrant bartenders, gay waiters, and atmospheric jazz. Dead-end security jobs followed, along with a marriage (at the age of 21) to Gabriella, which slowly unraveled due to incompatibility, ill-advised polyamorous adventures, enervating pot-smoking, and mental illnesses (suffered by both Yerucham and Gabriella) that culminated in the author’s hospitalization in Bellevue’s psych ward for near-catatonic depression. Fleeing New York, Yerucham regrouped while working on a Wyoming ranch, then embarked on meth-fueled wanderings through the West that featured flophouses, homelessness, and a death march in the Mexican desert. After another unsuccessful attempt to establish himself in New York, the author lit out for India, where he studied at ashrams, steeped himself in meditative yoga and Jain philosophy, and met the Dalai Lama, who “received [him]…with a handshake and a painful fixed promotional grin, and displayed a hollowed deep sadness in his eyes.” A six-month detour to Israel reconnected him with his Orthodox Jewish roots; he then returned to India before moving on to Malaysia and finally to Thailand. While nourishing his soul he was also looking for a wife, which resulted in quixotic relationships with a German ashram tourist (who turned out to be gay) and a Chinese woman in Malaysia. He finally married a Siamese woman and tussled with the United States immigration bureaucracy to get her and their daughter to California.

Yerucham’s narrative rambles through many labyrinthine twists and digressions, often with no clear destination in sight; along the way, he invokes philosophers from Socrates to Sartre to glean nuggets of wisdom from his misadventures (“Suffering is the fire that burns the debris of past foolishness from the mind….From the furnace of suffering, I gathered charred relics of goodness from the remains of the mess of my twenties, and began piecing them together”). It’s a baggy, sprawling saga, but even at nearly 800 pages, it never grows tiresome thanks to the extraordinary quality of the writing. Endlessly curious and sympathetic, the author renders the parade of people he meets in subtle, evocative colors (“Dew entered wearing a simple and clean homemade dress, and exhibited a face which, in contrast to her previous innocent chipmunk face, was that of a lovelier suave mature woman, but cool and cunning and stately”)—and sometimes takes on a gonzo, hallucinatory quality worthy of Hunter S. Thompson (“He gave his best performance as devil’s right-hand man with his odd attractive laugh, mad grin, and head with high bony cheeks mounted like an idol atop his skeletal body. Roasting in the heat, he looked as if he’d been hammered and bronzed in hell furnaces for centuries”). Going everywhere yet getting nowhere, Yerucham’s journey makes for a fascinating read.

A brilliantly written nonfiction account of a man’s search for meaning in the odd picaresque of his life.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781669857310

Page Count: 792

Publisher: XlibrisUS

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

Review Program: KIRKUS INDIE