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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tonawanda News Writer Calls Book A Must Read

Title: Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety
Author: Daniel Smith
Author Website:
Genre: Nonfiction
Publisher: Simon &  Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-4391-7730-3
Grade: 4/5 stars

Review by Jessica Brant, Blog Writer and Freelance Writer for the Tonawanda News

‘Monkey Mind’ author proves that through self-deprecating humor and with a little bit of faith, anxiety is manageable
If the American Psychiatric Association ever decided to conduct a search for the new face of anxiety, then Daniel Smith could be their poster child.
The author of ‘Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety’ details every pang of anxiety ever felt throughout his young adult life. During the most arbitrary of day-to-day decision-making, such as what condiments to put on his roast beef sandwich, to more high-risk situations such as when he lost his virginity and left for college in Boston, Smith describes each instance with great finesse, prescribing the reader with just the right dosage of research and wit.
According to Smith, there are two types of anxiety sufferers in the world: stiflers and chaotics. A stifler will throw a smile to the public, but throw back a bottle of gin in private. As a chaotic anxiety sufferer desperately trying to remain a stifler, however, Smith operates by throwing everything onto the table: emotion, sometimes in the form of physical discomfort and outbursts, and also his sanity.
It is his candidness and willingness to tell-all that makes Smith an easy character to sympathize with. His explanation of the term “monkey mind,” whose origins lie in the practice of Buddhism, offers insight into the inner workings of many anxiety sufferers’ minds. An individual with a “monkey mind” has an uncontrollable consciousness, where thoughts jump, flip, and swing in every direction. Buddhist practices, Smith writes, are designed to tame these “monkeys of the mind.”
Throughout the novel, Smith discovers the triggers of his anxiety, such as the implications that the freedom of choice brings. Another is his mother, “Hurricane Marilyn,” who, ironically, is a psychotherapist suffering from anxiety herself, whose cliental consists mainly of individuals suffering from it too. As a young Smith presses one ear to the central-air vent in his parents’ bedroom listening in on his mother’s sessions, he realizes that the mother who raised him was not the unafflicted woman he heard in that room, who was able to turn her anxiety off for the time-being. Smith only wished he had that much control.
Quirky characters provide Smith’s story with life. The reader encounters Esther, the curvaceous, provocative twenty-something-year-old who worked with Smith at a bookstore when he was 15 and took his virginity by engaging him in a ménage a trois. And Joanna, Smith’s first love, the woman who made him realize that he hit rock-bottom. The reader finally meets Brian near the end of his story, the no-nonsense therapist who forced him to get a grip. 
Although Smith’s life is, for the most part, muddled by fear and doubt, his writing has not been. Bold comparisons and attempts at self-mockery turn woes into comic relief—like when he describes his awkward nail biting habit and extreme armpit sweating dilemma--and make his venting sessions entertaining—like when he comically discusses his fear of contracting HIV on his way to a therapy session. The book is sure to put a smile on more than one face.

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