Reviewer John Cowans: John was a University, College, and School English teacher for over 40 years, John Cowans now lives in retirement in Chester., Nova Scotia.
Author: Philip Bralich
I supposed we are, as Dickens wondered, the heroes of our own stories, but the real question is whether these stories are enough significance to support the heroes they contain. Someone else said something about there being only one person in a hundred who is boring and that person is interesting because he is boring.
this points to the many dangers inherent in writing autobiography, or
memoir as some quibblers call it. The major danger here is that we
may think our life story is interesting, but others may beg to
differ. Blaming Japhy Rider: Memoir of a Dharma Bum Who Survived is a
case in point. I am not saying that this story is
uninspiring; that assessment I leave to you , the reader; I have
always thought that writers of ‘memoir’ should write first for
themselves and then, if others show interest, then all well and good.
The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. I do have the feeling that
this is the case with this book which might have acted as a form of
therapy of the author.
Philip Bralich’s story begins in West
Africa where he and his wife are sent by the Peace Corps in
1978. Unfortunately a serious motorcycle accident takes his wife’s
life and leaves the author partially crippled. For the next thirty
years Bralich travels the world spending time in Japan and Hawaii
trying to come to terms with his wife’s loss eventually settling in
Monterey , California where he now lives.
Most important, Blaming
Japhy Rider is a spiritual journey wherein Bralich attempts to
assuage the affects of post traumatic stress disorder caused by his
accident through the Zen and Tibetan Buddhist disciplines which he
experiences in his travels. Bralich is also influenced by the
writings of Kerouac , Ginsberg and other Beat writers. Japhy Ryder, a
character in Kerouac’s novel The Dharma Bums, is the fictional name
for Gary Snyder who introduces Kerouac to Buddhism, and Allan
Ginsberg’s poem Howl acts as recurring theme linking the episodes
of this story together.
Blaming Japhy Rider is an interesting
account of one man’s struggle against formidable psychological
odds, and for anyone suffering with PTSD this story will provide
reassurance and hope. As Bralich makes clear, PTSD is not only caused
by the terrors of warfare; there are other terrors, just as severe
which can assail anyone who has been faced with trauma in any of the
battlefields of life.