With A Natural History of the Senses, Diane Ackerman let her free-ranging intellect loose on the natural world. Now in Deep Play she tackles the realm of creativity, by exploring one of the most essential aspects of our characters: the abitlity to play. ""Deep play"" is that more intensified form of play that puts us in a rapturous mood and awakens the most creative, sentient, and joyful aspects of our inner selves. As Ackerman ranges over a panoply of artistic, spiritual, and athletic activities, from spiritual rapture through extreme sports, we gain a greater sense of what it means to be ""in the moment"" and totally, transcendentally human. Keenly perceived and written with poetic exuberance, Deep Play enlightens us by revealing the manifold ways we can enhance our lives.
In a meandering meditation, poet and naturalist Ackerman (A Natural History of the Senses, etc.) employs the term "deep play" to refer to a combination of what others sometimes call "flow" or "the zone" and what anthropologists call "sacred play." Her subject can be understood as intensity, or even ecstasy, those moments of heightened experience when the mind and senses are working at full capacity. Her acknowledgments page bears a portent for readers as she mentions previous essays on poetry, ceremony and eco-psychology, travel pieces on Gauguin and the Grand Canyon, and more: to fit her broad conceit, she's shoehorned in a wide range of her activities. At her best, which usually comes when she is writing about something observable (e.g., standing amid penguins in Antarctica), Ackerman can beguile readers with fine turns of phrase. But when she indulges her weakness for abstraction, she can get airy. Musing on her application to the "Journalist in Space" program and the future of commonplace space flight, she declares: "What wonderful fields of deep play await us in space!" Poetry "is an act of deep play," she asserts, in an interesting if somewhat off-point account of writing and teaching. Some of her conclusions settle for a dismaying level of generalization as when, citing her experiences with soccer players and cycling magazines, she suggests that professional athletes are businesslike, while amateurs are more playful. Ultimately, the book is more confusing than illuminating, and, oddly, more labored than playful. Agent, Cullen Stanley of Janklow & Nesbit. Author tour. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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August 07, 2000
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