18 Jun 2015

A Review

Hail readers!

As promised, here is my review of Epiphanies Whilst High out of One’s Mind by HT Yim. Courtesy goes to Sage (my eminent blog tour host) for sending me a review copy, and of course: to Hayoung Yim, for indulging in this whole charade.

This review will also be up on my Reviews page (of course) and will soon be released on Goodreads and Amazon.

‘Alex!’ you cry; ‘surely you have not forgotten that you are a writer, as opposed to some high-brow, tedious critic?’ you may enquire. Rest assured that I have not forgotten; rather, I aim to provide you, firstly, with a taste of my writing in other endeavours; and secondly, to fulfil my duties as a blog tour host.

Rest assured also that I am fully engaged with my usual literary enterprises: I have another essay cooking (did anyone say Marxism?), a poem—likely one not part of the Fallen Saga—and of course, the Ark is coming soon.

Until then, you might as well take a look at this charming insight into the ever-contentious drug.

Epiphanies Whilst High out of One’s Mind: A Review

Disclaimer: I was provided a free review copy by Sage’s Blog Tours; I was not compensated for this review, and write this in the full capacity of an impartial reviewer.

Epiphanies whilst High (as I shall name for the sake of brevity) is in many regards an aptly named memoir: the author details her personal experiences with the dubious substance—giving fascinating detail both on the pleasant and unsavoury aspects of the drug—as well as, curiously enough, the epiphanies that she experienced whilst under its influence.

Nevertheless, I feel this limits the scope and efficacy of this work; for although personal experience can be valuable—there is something more human to introspective prose than what cold reason can hope to bequeath—the essay was nevertheless held back by a lack of detailed analysis. There was no mention of why marijuana was different from, say, alcohol; and by this I mean not in the sense of the drugs’ effects (in fact that was elucidated on handsomely) but rather: why is one permissible instead of the other, and why does the author think marijuana should be legal as well?

I also felt the essay could have done well to have included some political philosophy (with which the author clearly was familiar). There was no mention of internal vs external freedom, for example, or why marijuana might impinge on the latter. Nor was there any consideration to the value of freedom per se, and how marijuana use fitted into that.

The author did elaborate on the health effects of pot—she for example personally experienced memory loss—but never did she ask the reader to question whether these are cause enough to ban weed.

I would also have enjoyed some jurisprudent analysis. It isn’t illegal to consume alcohol while pregnant, for example, even if it is highly recommended against by doctors[1]; nor is it illegal to purchase substantial amounts of alcohol, or to get drunk (though some limited laws have been passed). If weed were legal, how would these legal issues be addressed? What about those prone to schizophrenia? Or teenagers?

Opprobrium aside, I nonetheless enjoyed Epiphanies. For one, it was genuinely humorous; Yim has a talent for injecting seemingly ordinary situations with just a slice or two of craziness (and I don’t mean that in a literary sense).

For two, Epiphanies is written in a curiously descriptive—even novelistic—style, that works well to pique the interest of the reader. One feels more inclined to describe Epiphanies as a new adult romance, as opposed to a dry political essay. Were I not so punctilious a soul, however, I might not comment on the author’s literary failings. Yim has a tendency to begin most of her scenes with pathetic fallacy; and initially, this works well; but soon, it grows a little tedious.

That said, Yim’s skill as a writer isn’t in doubt: she writes in a clear, and sophisticated yet informal manner that allows one to both easily absorb the content of her words, and to enjoy Epiphanies as a memoir. In this regard, I will pose no criticism. What I will comment on: some of her eponymous epiphanies.

Some are quite fascinating. She ascribes the feeling of an uncertain relationship to be much like deciding on bus routes: one is constantly wondering whether they’ve picked the quickest bus route—and if the buses tend to run slowly, one wonders whether it is better to leave one bus and try another. Though simplistic, this is a fitting analogy for how lovers feel when a relationship doesn’t seem to be working.

Others are interesting, though a little tenuous. For example: she likens the way horsemen in RR Martin’s Game of Thrones dismount when in a duel, to being somewhat like the chivallric code; the idea being, to implicitly level the playing field. One ought be careful of using fantasy analogies (knights dismount in close combat because horses are more of a liability in that situation, for example) and even more so of accepting simple explanations. That said, there’s nothing outwardly fallacious about Yim’s analogies.

Conclusion

Allow me to summarise my admittedly rambling thoughts on the matter. Epiphanies whilst High our of One’s Mind is, largely, well-written, engaging, and contains some fascinating personal experiences—as well as, of course, plenty of epiphanies. I believe those curious about the drug, or those interested in debating its use and legality, would find Epiphanies while High a strong read. That is, if they read it with the clear understanding that this is not a formal essay.

If you are looking for a formal essay, this isn’t it; though even so, this is a worthy read. And that perhaps best describes Yim’s work.

Rating: 3.5/5

1: Potentially an offence under Offences against the Person Act 1861, though enforced only in extreme circumstances.

This post has been ammended to name the author as Hayoung Yim. Previously, a pseudonym had been used.

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