||Fisher King Press
In SamSara, you might stumble upon a typo or a misspelled word here or there, but you stand a far greater chance of reclaiming a misplaced piece of your soul. A lost-in-life trac-tor salesman plopped smack dab in the center of Florence, Italy seems a bit odd, but even more bizarre, he’s the only man in a group of eighteen women psychologist who are attending a seminar concerning the feminine aspect of the psyche. In other words, primitive man meets goddess.
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Samsara begins with an brief introduction by a Wise Old Man concerning the origins of this novel’s original manuscript. Then, in the first section, In the Beginning, in diary form, the protagonist, Malcolm Clay, introduces the psychological and social heritage of which he is trying to escape. Next comes, Leaving the Nest, and… well, if drinking coffee with dirt farmers from twice filtered grounds and shagging parts for broken down cotton pick-ers and grain combines to sipping cappuccinos and eating brioches and budino d’risos for breakfast in the center of Firenze isn’t leaving the nest, then what is? Then next scene, All Fools day, Plus a Few More. In this section, Malcolm leaves the heart of Florence and once again, ventures out into unknown territory, Southern France, all alone, without the help of the eighteen women psychologist to rescue him from the terror of his very own existence. After three days of growing closer to his daemon, as close as he cares to at this point in his journey, he sets off for Paris by train – where he hopes to catch a flight to Dublin and be rescued from his ‘condition’ by a beautiful Irish lass whom he’d met five months earlier for an entire ten minutes in a coffee shop back in California. In the finale, To Be or Not to Be, Malcolm pursues the Irish woman, but the crafty lass flees and leads him on a chase, forcing Malcolm back upon himself, forcing him to look within, and away from, what for most of his life, he has attempted to satisfy ephemerally.
Chasing Leprechans, rainbows, and a pots of gold, attempting to unify the masculine and feminine, and the dream world of Malcolm Clay with his waking reality… in the most unconventional way, our author somehow manages to disillusion one of false, antiquated beliefs and at the same time marries matter and spirit. In his third novel, SamSara, Mel Mathews certainly does prove to be a master of his trade.
Malcolm and I first met in a coffee shop in downtown Carmel just a few weeks after he turned thirty-six. Six months later, by chance, we bumped into each other again. He’d returned to the Peninsula for the weekend. A close friend of his had just died and he seemed quite shaken. He explained that he had been raised a Calvinist, had suffered from life’s normal existential beatings and, at twenty-five years of age, had checked himself into a rehabilitation center for alcoholism. I mentioned the possibility that he might some day be able to accept that his life and what had happened to him was simply just the way it was. Malcolm’s response to my suggestion was that he needed a new image of God and of Woman. He said that he had no idea what that meant; yet he knew it to be his truth.
We discussed a dream he’d had that day, and once a week from then on over the next few years, until just a few days before he left for Europe. The last correspondence I received was an e-mail message from Malcolm while he was still in Ireland. The letter said that it was time for him to get on with his life. After that, he never replied to any of my queries. A few months passed and I received a hand-written copy of this manuscript in the mail, along with a note of thanks. What precedes and follows this brief introduction is solely the work of one: Malcolm Clay.
December of 2001
Wise, clever, earthy. . .
For those who have had the pleasure of discovering Mel Mathews through his first two books, 'LeRoi' and 'Menopause Man', the wandering, questing central figure of Malcolm Clay has become a new literary icon. The promises so obviously made in the first parts of this (to date) trilogy happily have come to fruition in 'SamSara' - a novel of sophisticated writing, thoughtful ruminations, keen humor, informative explorations of themes from religion to traits of visited countries, and so many clever double entendres - that Mathews' place in the ranks of fine contemporary writers is assured.
Mel Mathews has developed a style of interlocking his many characters, placing them strategically throughout the three books whether in flashbacks or dreams or weighing comparisons, of narrating in first person with his 40-year-old protagonist who has waded through a life of addiction, child abuse, frustrated love affairs, the success and boredom of being a tractor salesman, to the point of confrontation with his basic inner demons that prevent his success with women. In 'SamSara' he has reached a plane where he is seeking spiritual guidance, rolfing, and ultimately joining a group of twenty women in a trek to Florence, Italy for a seminar "Exploring the Images in Word and Art of Mary Magdalene: central to the theme is developing one's inner image of the feminine psyche". That is how committed to change is Malcolm Clay!
From Carmel, California to Zurich, to Florence for the seminar (a period in which Mathews details so much interesting information about the feminine aspect of Christianity, Gnosticism, the concept that Mary Magdalene as the Holy Grail bore a child named Sara Kali by Christ and escaped to a French village Saintes Maries de la Mer where the annual celebration of Sara AKA the Black Queen still exists), to France, and to Ireland Malcolm Clay writes in diary fashion, emails, and in dreams shared about his progress in dissembling his dysfunctional approach to women and in the process finding the validity of his own existence. 'You know, there's something about becoming more aware of what unconsciously runs a person. Awareness is a thief. It's robbed me of an illusion; it's robbed me of the belief that the only way a man can make love to a woman is by physically penetrating her.' And from this stance Malcolm grows into an enlightened man, forgiving his past, and getting in touch with his internal masculine and feminine counterparts.
One of the uniquely beautiful aspects of Mathews' writing is his ability to explore these thoughtful (even profound) topics with a effervescent sense of humor and a gift for communicating details of living in Florence, struggling with the French attitude, and seeking out the funky little eateries and Internet cafes in Ireland. For after all, the main reason for this meandering journey to Europe is to follow-up on a brief but meaningful encounter with a lass named Kelli whom he met in Carmel and agrees to meet in Ireland in hopes that he has finally found his perfect mate, hopefully with the added growth of his own sense of self. But the ending leaves some unanswered questions that suggest we may still be following Malcolm Clay through future novels!
After reading three books by Mathews, growing with his developing facility with construction of a novel, with his finessing of his style, the gifts of this author become increasingly apparent. He is wise, clever, earthy, and has many surprises up his sleeve. Example: 'SamSara' as a title for this book references the Hindu/Buddhist word for 'cycle of rebirth, of flowing together from this life into a reincarnation, an ignorance of True Self', yet it also is the name of the Irish pub where he comes to an awareness of his plight with Kelli, and in separating SamSara with the capital 'S' he also pulls in the name 'Sara', the product of Mary Magdalene coupling with Christ. That is the pleasure of reading Mel Mathews - he takes the reader on an engaging journey of self realization peppered by countless chuckles and observations of the human condition. He is an important author: he deserves to be widely read! Grady Harp, May 07
In addition to the USA Today, WNBC.com and BloggingAuthors.com, Grady Harp's reviews appear on Barnes & Noble, Soapadoo, Powells Books, and he is an Amazon.com Top Ten reviewer!!
SamSara . . . no-holds-barred!
SamSara is a window into an epic struggle to find something that’s not worldly but sought after in the depth of human consciousness—a fulfillment of spiritual longing. Who is brave enough to enter this world? Malcolm Clay. He’s a rare breed and one can’t but help cheer him on to kick Yahweh in the seat of his pants. If you think that’s a mentality of the far past, think again. Malcolm brings forth this ancient image that lies hidden in the shadows of humanity’s modern day soul.
SamSara from the beginning chapters to the end is a journey paved with fire. Mel Mathews makes the trip real with Malcolm Clay, a tractor salesman gone wild to journey to any distance to find the missing pieces in his life. Most of us have fought our demons and very well know about internal conflict, but Malcolm Clay suffers the soul of a mislead child. Tormented with the passion to move forward with his life, to brush aside obstacles that seem to always get in the way, Malcolm passes the test of the human will only to surprise the reader at the end of his journey.
How does one sacrifice worldly things that others beg, borrow and even steal to have, in turn searching for bliss? In SamSara, Malcolm shucks a position with security and a handsome income. He’s no longer willing to sell his soul to the devil! Hell no, Malcolm is seeking something higher—he’s after a sip from the Holy Grail. Is it worth all he goes through? As a reader, you’ll have to decide this for yourself, but Malcolm seems to trust his calling, and so do I.
Hang on readers, in SamSara there’s no-holds-barred in the tale about true redemption. It left me contemplating about the author—how in the world will Mathews top SamSara?
by John Atkinson, Author of Timekeeper
Snake Biting At Its Own Tail
True this book takes you on a physical journey from California to Ireland via Switzerland, Italy, and France. However, if a potential reader quickly glancing over the back cover thinks this will be run of the mill – travel log kind of entertainment - beware. The cover may give a hint to some that this is more like a journey ‘to hell and back’, but that’s putting it lightly. SamSara is not only a page-turner, but provides valuable insights into a very small part of mankind, those who do not fear Freedom but instead demand it as their individual right.
I found this novel to be a very unique action thriller, which takes place in a micro cosmos of one single person: Malcolm Clay. He takes the longest and most convoluted journey any-one could imagine. Malcolm is in my eyes a hero taking the terrible risk of traveling the un-charted regions of his own psyche, deep down to vast regions of fear and pain but also of brilliant revelations full of light and hope.
SamSara portrays the struggles of a man searching for freedom from his puritanical up-bringing and the existential traumas of his youth. Again and again, he comes up against dead-ends and frightening reminders of images from his past. His dream sequences are wonderfully portrayed. One in particular comes to mind, about tigers and how a number of these dangerous animals invade a house, and professionals are called to exterminate them. But instead of killing them, the tigers are tranquillized, and one realizes that the ani-mals are symbolic of the sometimes overwhelming demons within us, energies that have to be subdued and sometimes even separated so that we can slowly develop a relationship and come to terms with these integral aspects of ourselves as opposed to denying their existence and continuing to suffer in a host of neurotic or even psychotic ways.
After the stage for this fine novel has been set, the pace really picks up: I had a hard time fumbling through the pages fast enough, and the ending really threw me. No, I won’t even give you a hint. But, let me just say: It has nothing to do with the snake biting at its own tail - swallowing, perhaps, but certainly not biting! If I may quote some very clever personality whose name I have never known: “The beginning is in the end.”
In my opinion, the very essence of SamSara is about the transformation of images, and Mel Mathews is quite masterful in the way he moves readers through this process, building to high points of interest and excitement, before letting off, allowing the reader time to relax and enjoy a more normal flow of life as these old ghost are slowly transformed into vital companions. I found it rewarding and enlightening to accompany Malcolm during his metamorphose from a person haunted by his past, yet willing to gamble not only his worldly goods, but even his soul, to become the individually decisive and free man he longs to be.-- Gustav Jack Moos - Küsnacht - Zurich, Switzerland
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