A young gay man, confused in 1980s AIDS-riddled New York City, took refuge when Andy Warhol offered him a job as Interview Magazine’s first senior editor. That opportunity let him interview numerous big stars in different industries. Troubled by the city’s overwhelming pop culture and by watching his friends die, Mark set sail for Europe and India where he found a different path.
Such is part of Mark Matousek’s story as he tells it in his international bestseller Sex, Death, and Enlightenment: A True Story.
The author of several books, Mark’s articles have appeared in The New Yorker, O, Tricycle, and other publications. Reader’s Digest calls his memoir The Boy He Left Behind one of the 17 memoirs everyone should read.
Now Mark heads up The Seeker’s Forum – “an ongoing life-course and global online community designed to cultivate wisdom and positive change.”
In this Books That Matter feature, Mark will share his love for Edgar Alan Poe from a young age, the book he imagines living inside, and the kind of books he’s seeking these days.
Jeffrey: What one book most took off the top of your head (Dickinson on poetry) or was “the axe for the frozen sea within” you (Kafka) or otherwise just changed something profound within you? What did it do for you? Maybe a book that lit you up as a child or that turned you on as a young adult or last week that salved some pain or turned your thinking upside-down.
Mark: The Complete Works of Edgar Alan Poe changed my life. I first read Poe when I was nine years old. Between the music of “The Raven,” which I recited obsessively (“Nevermore!”) and the psychological twistedness of the short stories — which mirrored my inner world as a boy — I became convinced that writing was the most interesting thing a person could do with his life. That has never changed.
What one detail do you still recall from that book?
The beating heart in The Tell Tale Heart gave me nightmares for years.
The book you imagine living inside of is what?
Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning. It’s been one of my holy books as a survivor.
The character I still imagine being or being friends or seeking counsel from is who?
Colette, because she was unsinkable, brilliant, and shameless. “Being happy is a way of being wise.” That has been a motto for me.
What one book have you most often re-read?
Emerson’s Essays because he’s my literary hero and the man who gives self-help a good name.
What kinds of books are you most appreciating or seeking these days ?
What one book really irritated you?
The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz.
You will read anything written by whom?
Survey: Roughly what % of books do you read digitally versus in paper?
100 % hard copy books, 0 % digital
In a sentence or two, what’s your forecast for the future of publishing?
For writers, there is endless potential for putting things into print and rapidly diminishing potential for being paid what we deserve for the work.
If you had five days off to read books next week, which books would you at last read?
Vivian Gornick on Emma Goldman
Which book would you want every boy/girl/woman/man/business person/thought leader to read? Why?
Emerson’s Essays. See above.
What little-known book do you most relish and champion?
Lewis Thompson’s Mirror To the Light
The book you are most embarrassed to say you’ve never read is what?
Any of the great Russian novels except The Brothers Karamazov.
If you had the time, talent, grit, and support, what book would you write?
The Secret of the World: How Mystic Awareness Can Save Your Life
The one thing you hope readers of your book, When Your Falling, Dive: Lessons in the Art of Living come away with is what?
“When you’re going through hell, keep going.”