~ Book Review ~


Title: "Portrait Of A Seeker Of Essence"
Author: Russell Kolish
Publisher: St. Damian Press
Published: E Book at Barnes & Noble and E Book at Amazon (link: www.portraitofaseekerofessence.name)
Date: 2011
Pages: 195

Reviewer: Edward Bligh

In "Portrait Of A Seeker Of Essence" Russell Kolish writes a search for identity genre story chock full of symbolism and even symbols of symbolism in the spirit of Hess and Mann. It's about a songwriter experiencing the puzzles of his existence, about individuality, its complexities and contradictions and about the illusions of identity.

The author's writing style is often beautifully rhythmic and lyrical, his prose very emotional.

The dialogue is effective at getting the author's points across and he makes most interesting use of mental dialogue which the main character carries on with himself in the form of his thoughts. This odd choice of revealing the character's thoughts brings a sense of immediacy to the character's journey of self examination and clarifies the changes he makes in order to more completely express/manifest his newly emerging self. The author certainly supports his ideas with many examples throughout the story using this technique.

The story is very successful at its stated purpose of examining Gableplunk's mental journey.

It takes place in the city and also in the countryside, a split metaphor for the main character's inner schisms.

The main character, Gableplunk, is completely believable and developed quite succinctly, with lots of detail which lends insight into why he is the way he is and how he evolves through all his changes, spiritual, psychological and concrete. The second major character, Max, not a very unique name, but appropriate for his grandness, becomes Gableplunk's mentor as does the old man, Julian, a tradesman in the wine business. There's a romantic interest at one point in the story, Zia, while the only other important character is Kristen, Max's sister, who seems to offer a more reasonable alternative to Zia and in whom Gableplunk fails to see potential, perhaps representative of his egotistic concerns which seem to outweigh everything else in his life throughout most of the story. Other minor characters are the musicians to whom Gableplunk is drawn by mutual interest or fate.

Gableplunk's story is a fascinating synopsis or overview of all the ‘searching for the self' books of the last seventy years. It touches on many of the major ideas of this genre but improves on them with more detail in keeping with our post postmodern times.

The author also provides a very useful glossary of terms, a unique provision for readers who want to follow Gableplunk's intellectual explanations and reasoning.

If you like stories that reveal the inner workings of characters' minds you would enjoy this one. The author is well versed in pop psychology and (specific) areas of spirituality which he uses to further Gableplunk's character.

The story's title is very appropriate and promises exactly what the book delivers: a state of fundamental mind like the sensation one gets while looking at a work of conceptual art. This state of mind is, of course, Gableplunk's but the author writes cleverly enough to help the reader experience that state of mind for him/herself. The last chapter, a kind of summation of the themes of the story through the use of symbols and metaphors, is quite unique and powerful in the way it moves the reader's mind from the concrete considerations of Gableplunk's life to more abstract mental and spiritual spaces or I should say spatial-ness, an effect of actually feeling your mind expanded beyond its usual boundaries. Really extraordinary.

The story well achieved it's stated goal of examining its main character. Possibilities suggested by the story are personal growth and beneficial changes. Everyone has had these types of experiences whether or not they've intellectualized them and almost everyone will be able to relate to the issues.

"Portrait Of A Seeker Of Essence" deals with the themes of individuality and the major puzzles of existence: identity and meaning, through the use of expository characterization and dialogue which effectively and charmingly communicates to us the author's ideas through the personalities of his characters. Gableplunk, himself almost a metaphor of all the ups and downs in the story, the leaps from psychological safety into the insecurities of flight without a net, is a most unusual, interesting and literate character. The author's ultra simple and smooth writing style helps the reader understand some of the deeper ideas almost by example: smooth and eloquent writing pulls the reader, who might normally be intimidated by some of the ideas, more deeply into considering them, taking part in them without the usual struggle necessary to place themselves into that frame of mind. The repetitive glossary aids this process although it almost isn't necessary for a casual reading. As the author claims, this story is one you'll re-read three times or more in your life. I agree. It's filled with subtle depth which reveals more and more to the individual with each re-reading.

Appropriate title, good story, interesting ideas, exotic ending. Recommended for easy yet unusual reading.