The Point of Vanishing: A Memoir of Two Years in Solitude by Howard Axelrod is a memoir and a modern echo of Thoreau’s Walden. Because it took place in the nineties, a time I’m familiar with, I found it more accessible than its famous predecessor. It was interesting to see how an extended period of solitude impacted Axelrod’s perception and emotional life, and how his ‘new way of seeing’ butted up against expectations from friends, family, and strangers when he returned to civilization from the woods.
Even keeping a journal had come to feel strange-as though I was trying to sketch my own outline, to corral the wind, the snow, and the stars into the shape of a man.
I needed to live without the need of putting on a face for anyone, including myself. I needed to be no one, really, while carrying the hope that my particular no one might feel familiar, might turn out to be someone I had known all along-the core of who I’d been as boy, the core of who I might become as a man. Beneath all the masks I’d accumulated over the years, beneath even the masks that resented those masks, there had to be something there, something essential, some sense of reality and of myself that couldn’t be broken.
Susan broke into a desperate smile. “There’s the old Howie,” she said. “Witty. Fun.” She squeezed my arm, as though to dispense more of the old me.
My ‘book notes’ are appreciation posts written to help me better understand what works well in a piece of writing. I occasionally update these posts. This is not a book review.