The book is a mélange of biography, novel, and philosophical treatise, and it is basically constructed in narrative summary (structured in the form of a narrowed text, somewhat like poetry, although not, strictly speaking, for poetic reasons) often interrupted by a variety of quotations, most from the works of Schopenhauer himself, but many from the works of such Schopenhauerian figures as Napoleon, Byron, Gracian, Wittgenstein, Goethe, et al. Then there are frequent, narrative interludes, much like short stories but cumulative and thus serving the text. While invented, these narrative interludes are all based upon well-documented events in Schopenhauer’s life. The book’s tone often verges upon the ironic, frolicsome and light-hearted, designed to serve in counterpoint to the familiar stereotype of Schopenhauer as a relentlessly grim pessimist. But it is intrinsic to the book’s very conception that this tonal counterpoint is not as incompatible with the “real” Schopenhauer as that of his familiar image, because the enormous vitality of his style simply could not have grown out of the quagmire of utter despair, in that the voice of despair is silence, whereas there is enormous energy and brio in all that Schopenhauer wrote.
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Jack Matthews published more than 30 books in his long storied life, and received many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1974, and a Sherwood Anderson Award. His short stories, essays, poems, and reviews appeared in such periodicals as The Yale Review, The Malahat Review, The Sewanee Review, The New York Times, The Nation, The New Republic, The National Review, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, Mademoiselle, The Southern Review, Soundings, and The London Review of Books. Jack passed away in November of 2013.Review:
What better person could there be to write a creative meditation and dramatization of Schopenhauer's life than philosophical novelist Jack Matthews? ... The best thing about Schopenhauer's Will is that it balances the need to convey Schopenhauer's ideas with Matthews' need to tell a good story; it's just as much a book about dog walking as it is about one man's gloomy philosophies. (Robert Nagle, ghostlypopulations.com ).
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