Barbara Ehrenreich: Living with a Wild God

Living with a Wild God: A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything - Barbara Ehrenreich

WHOAH what did I just read? Ehrenreich experiences several dissociative episodes as a teenager, and concludes that maybe some of us are visited by non-corporeal beings in our minds who practice interspecies symbiosis"? Wow, I did not see that ending coming.


But that's not even why I disliked this book. For the first 80% of the book, Ehrenreich dryly reconstructs her teenage from the journal she kept as a teenager. Although her experiences are fascinating (especially if you don't know anyone who suffers from solipsism syndrome, which I did not), her writing is disappointingly straightforwardly and descriptive. It's hard to imagine writing dispassionately about a childhood like hers, but Ehrenreich is very closed to exploring her own emotions. In fact, she nonsensically refuses to call this memoir a biography and instead insists on seeing it as a scholarly work about religion.


I feel that this is the same impulse that leads her to conclude that her solipsism syndrome and dissociative episodes are mystic experiences caused by some wilful Other being, and not the result of a combination of brain chemistry and an unhealthy childhood. Tantalizingly, she hints that she is aware of this: she writes, “To acknowledge the existence of other people is also to acknowledge that they are not reliable sources of safety or comfort.” But in the end, she can't embrace this truth, and instead veers off into mysticism. It's a disappointing ending to an insanely frustrating memoir (don't even get me started on the day she realized that people around her were actual human beings who were being drafted into the Vietnam War).


This is my first Ehrenreich book, although I have others waiting on my shelf. I had always thought of her as a pragmatic and practical writer, and I have been looking forward to both Nickled and Dimed and Bright-Sided. I hope she is more honest with other topics than she is with her own mind.