True Stories of the Philosophical Theater


Non-Fiction - Memoir
911 Pages
Reviewed on 01/28/2024
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Rich Follett for Readers' Favorite

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater by S. Yerucham chronicles one man’s quest for meaning in a world seemingly defined by contradiction. Yerucham’s sweeping narrative conveys readers across the globe, from Indiana to India, Israel, Thailand (to name a few), and, ultimately, to post-hippie San Francisco, where he at last reconciles his restless questioning mind and his wanderlust with his longing for home and family. This memoir is deeply personal and yet truly universal, with familiar themes such as fatherhood, homesickness, and the struggle inherent in adhering to one’s religious practices and beliefs while immersed in foreign cultures. These are all woven into the narrative with deft precision for clarity, purpose, and reader engagement.

S. Yerucham is a kind of modern-day Everyman, posing eternal questions and finding possible answers in the most unlikely of places. Add into the mix Yerucham’s masterfully inventive use of language and prodigious vocabulary and the result is a rare and singularly appealing literary memoir. Readers will be astonished at how quickly its pages breeze by, with every new horizon offering pure delights and new mysteries to ponder. Yerucham has a marvelously wry, self-deprecating sense of humor which adds a wonderful tongue-in-cheek quality to the text, making the reader feel part of the epic goings-on as the author transitions from a wide-eyed eighteen-year-old self-professed chameleonic shape-shifter to a homeowner and family man. Along the way, Yerucham quotes many of the world’s greatest books and takes us on an armchair tour of a number of the most appealing and exotic locales. It is hard to imagine a literary memoir with more to offer readers than S. Yerucham’s True Stories of the Philosophical Theater.

Asher Syed

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater by S. Yerucham is a memoir in which the author covers the years from 1981 to 2022 of his life traversing the world. As a young adult, he ditches Wyoming for New York City in a move that ends up being a full-circle moment, his desire to be a writer ultimately culminating in this memoir. In the Big Apple, Yerucham describes working at one of the most iconic locations on the planet. Yerucham marries a woman named Gabriella, and their union is far from conventional. He depicts times of non-monogamy and drugs, vices that are amplified later when marijuana turns to methamphetamines and its destructive impact. Spurred on after the marriage with Gabriella fails and stints around the States, Yerucham makes his way through South Asia, the East, and Israel, collecting pieces of himself both physically and spiritually on the path to not settling but settling down on his own terms.

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater by S. Yerucham is an extraordinarily comprehensive story of a far-from-ordinary life. It is broken down into five distinct and interconnected “books” that link together Yerucham's experiences through structural staging. One thing that stands out is the almost poetic quality of his prose, which describes even the simplest moments in beautiful detail. “Mostly nights were wonderfully dark and cool and fresh and silent, except for beautifully eerie mystic cicada songs.” For me, the most interesting part of Yerucham's overall narrative is his time in Israel, where he can commune with Orthodoxy roots, which linger as he ventures forward, not understanding his past, into the Jewish diaspora around the world. This onward movement is indicative of that very past—a present-day voluntary exile from an ancestral home. Overall, this is a deeply introspective and brilliantly crafted memoir that I suspect will have a greater impact on the author's legacy than anything he experienced in life. Very highly recommended.

K.C. Finn

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater is a work of creative non-fiction in the memoir, coming-of-age, and philosophy subgenres. It is best suited to mature adult readers owing to some adult themes and content throughout. Penned by author S. Yerucham, this novel-esque work unveils the unique journey of an eighteen-year-old who abandons the conventional path of academic philosophy for the vibrant and unpredictable world of New York City in 1981. The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of bohemian life, revolving around the protagonist's experiences while working in a bar on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center. As he ventures into peculiar relationships and various jobs, the protagonist's quest for a deeper understanding of life takes unexpected turns, leading him to an experiment in madness and eventually a transformative journey through philosophy, religion, and a sixteen-year odyssey across nine countries.

Author S. Yerucham has crafted a transportive and viscerally moving work that takes readers on a rollercoaster ride through time, philosophy, and diverse landscapes. Yerucham's storytelling skill shines as he weaves a tapestry of experiences that are both captivating and thought-provoking, all with a wry charm and an eye on the bigger picture as he slowly builds the story up, level by level, whilst the underpinning philosophical messages soak in and seep through. The narrative explores the protagonist's personal growth whilst also delving into the broader context of societal beliefs, spirituality, and the quest for genuine identity, and this is well-balanced to deliver a story of wide-reaching substance with a strong personal touch. Overall, I would highly recommend True Stories of the Philosophical Theater as a rich exploration of self-discovery and philosophy for memoir fans everywhere to enjoy.

Jamie Michele

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater by S. Yerucham unpacks a life journey from 1981 to 2022, encompassing the author's departure from academic philosophy in Wyoming to New York City's bohemian life. Yerucham sifts through the usual and unusual wherever he lands and the lines of love, lust, psychological, and Lissa-esque frenzy, and returns to philosophy and religion. Yerucham's world migration exceeds fifteen years and precedes over a decade of exile in Asia. It is marked by danger, love, mishaps, and a quest for goodness, wisdom, and genuine identity. The story culminates a year after his return to America, capturing the core of an existence characterized by perpetual movement and exploring what most would view as the meaning of life, even where Yerucham searched for it and on his own.

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater by S. Yerucham is a literary odyssey that effortlessly entwines the author's life with intense philosophical musings. Yerucham's mastery of the written word as a reflection of true events is clearly evident as he navigates through his experiences, seamlessly blending self-examination, humor, and existential depth. As a journey into the author's soul, I liked that his philosophical background does not weigh down the work and there are no hints of preaching or fluffed padding. Yerucham's writing proves that the intellectually stimulating and the entertaining can coexist when done correctly. His book is a testament to the author's ability to make the personal universally meaningful. In short, this non-fiction saga is just fantastic. Buy the ticket, take the ride.

Grant Leishman

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater by S Yerucham is a monumental dive into the human psyche of one young man as he seeks enlightenment in the eighties and nineties. This is an autobiography with a difference; this author has lived a life that few of us would contemplate let alone have the courage and fortitude to undertake. At eighteen, he left his education and his middle-class, middle-America home and headed for the bright lights of New York City in 1981. After several years of experimentation with drugs, exploring his sexuality, and attempting to understand his motivation and purpose in life, it was finally time to make the decision, like so many before him, and head to India seeking enlightenment and peace. Unlike many other seekers, this was no two-week jaunt and then back to the grind of daily life. This traveler was to spend the next two decades traveling through India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Malaysia, and more, looking at various methods and ways of life, seeking that which fulfilled his needs.

True Stories of the Philosophical Theater is no pocketbook to rush through in a few hours. This is a massive read but don’t let that put you off. This book is packed full of adventure, angst, pain, suffering, and at times monumental peace and joy. It is the sort of story one can read in episodes and return to time and again when seeking direction or solace. Author S. Yerucham is a fascinating character in his own right. A Jew who holds tightly to his roots, his Jewish practices, and his rituals, he nevertheless is extremely open to the idea that we are all seeking the same peace, enlightenment, and happiness, regardless of how we may seek it. This is a very personal journey that the author has invited us to accompany him on. Its purpose was never to change the world but to change his mind, to discover the depths of his perceptions, and to cleanse himself of as much bad karma as he could. As someone who lives in Southeast Asia, albeit a lot more comfortably than this author did, I can readily identify with many of the language difficulties, the cultural difficulties, and most importantly the hustle, bustle, and intense noise that is part and parcel of this area of the world. I marveled at the author’s commitment to his mission and staying power through the many travails and aggravations he encountered on his journey. Yes, he was incredibly lucky to have been funded largely by his father for this journey but his courage and fortitude can only be admired. I particularly appreciated his willingness to embrace and examine all aspects of the many religions and spirituality he encountered along his path, regardless of whether they conflicted with his belief system. This is a book that challenges readers to examine themselves, to ask themselves where they are heading, and what direction they would like their life to go. Not many would choose the path he took but we can all learn from the discoveries and enlightenment he discovered. This is a thoughtful, engaging, and downright challenging read that I can highly recommend.