Tesserae: A Memoir of Two Summers by Mathias B. Freese


NonfictionTesserae by Mathias B. FreeseReviewed by Molly

Mathias B. Freese’s Tesserae: a Memoir of Two Summers is a work of 218 pages including a forward, Introduction, and Afterword all encapsulated in 36 chapters.

By definition a tesserae is a small block or piece of glass, pebbles, tile, bone, or other materials employed in the creation of a mosaic. Using this definition; the title of this book, Tesserae, indicates to the reader that a mosaic of vibrant narrative pieces will be conveyed to generate an interesting, perhaps uplifting, array.

As I read the text offered in fresh, frank prose; I found the reader is provided a miscellany of mental representations forming a whole consummated in an interesting, readable manner by a writer who has been disposed to be direct while to baring himself completely.

In reading the Foreword I found English instructor, Steven Berndt, who specializes in proletarian literature of the Thirties feels that unlike many memoirs available today this particular work ‘is no mere pastiche of other works.’

Moving on to the Introduction I found myself becoming drawn into the work for much the writer’s stated ‘I miss the sixties. I miss them because they are still within me; missing them is akin to loss.’ I understand his feeling completely, I too miss times long past in my own life, and for much the same reason.

From that opening, writer Freese carries the reader along from summers spent in Woodstock, and on into his life during the sixties, until the current time.

Chapter titles indicate a beginning August 1, 1968 with client and therapist during a session. From there the reader is moved along via the therapist’s thoughts regarding his client and vice versa.  The 1963 political scene, black and white TV, skinny dipping, high school friends, an affair and the ending of that affair, the sixties and an awareness of the self, Woodstock summers, sharing difficult memories, musing over daily happenings, and at last musing from the period well beyond the sixties and coming to grips with everything in between leave the reader with an understanding of the ‘unconscious forces which human beings generally dismiss as so much climate change chatter and we really can’t get our minds around evolutionary psychology which, with monumental and ever growing scientific evidence, states that our genes rule us, that we are simply host bodies, that our genes mutate and struggle for what is best for their survival. ‘

Capable author Freese, his book cover indicates his use of no capitals, at least for this work; is an essayist, educator, and psychotherapist. Freese, winner of the National Indie Excellence Book Award of 2012 in general nonfiction, presented a well received, compelling collection of essays, “This Mobius Strip of Ifs.” I like that.

Freese’s writing embodies a charming, reader pleasing eminence of human frailty and humanity in his work. Our life histories; how they develop, support and encourage us is something that moves many writers to set down an accounting of their lives.

Centering on choices that have to be made author freese, who frequently was obliged to reconsider his own problems before deciding on a plan of action; helps the reader understand each person does experience successes as well as disappointments and traumatized moments.

As each chapter focuses on a phase of Freese’s life be it his memories and the feelings engendered concerning marriage, youth, the moment now, or at age 75 about aging and the bits of his past that he does not appear able to leave in the past and to move on.

Freese, fondly weaves a narrative seeming having origins in Woodstock, and moving on to other venues including North Carolina. He remembers family, friends, acquaintances, and relationships long since disappeared, passion that at times was satisfying and then sated and done, and some that were one-sided.

He faces head on the tormenting misery that comes from the disheartening sense of regret. The reader should remember Tesserae really is not an effort of melancholy and anguish. Relatively, this book is a work presented by a qualified psychotherapist who is proficient at realizing the emotional state inherent to us all.

Freese’s reflections regarding life, affection and the inherent implications leading us all toward change, as we develop, and become who we are now and why as opposed to who we were then, be it a day, week, decade or lifetime ago; Tesserae may serve to motivate the reader toward exploring and perhaps setting down for themselves; what purpose memories serve.

I found Tesserae to be well written, Freese’s writing is distinctive, his writing voice propels the reader through the narrative with a pause now and then to do some reflective thinking about the life and perhaps shared moments we all have shared and how we have been compelled forward or perhaps have been held back on our own journey.

Writer Freese seems to be leaning toward helping himself, his patients, and readers of this book understand that the road we each travel toward realizing who we really are and why; frequently takes most of our lifetime no matter who we are or whatever our upbringing. Along with that realization Freese helps himself, his patients, and the readers of this book begin to also realize we also need to accept that we are who we are just because that is who we are is something most of us finally begin to realize as well.

The latter understanding of ourselves may be a long and hard struggle as we each come to that realization following much angst filled, and perhaps finger pointing and blame placing, trial and error to come to understand that who we are with or without the understanding of why we attach to it during the process helps us each live more satisfying lives.

Tesserae is a work to be read while highlighting with a marker and making notes in the margins; then considered and perhaps re read again. This work can offer the reader perception re the reader’s thinking of times long past and ways and the mechanisms of being and motivated developing relationships, good times and those not so good. Reading the book in its entirety leads the reader to under that when art, painted, sketched or written, is completed with thoughtful creativity, does provide the observer/reader perceptions into the self.

Interesting, uplifting read; Happy to recommended

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