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Praise of Motherhood Paperback – May 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


This is a beautiful meditation, simultaneously subtle and powerfully direct, on the depth of emotion between a mother and son. Jourdan's words come back to me long after I've finished the book. Moments of this memoir leave me haunted, and in that way renew my devotion to fragile lives, which is to say all of us, all so human, and to life as wild and fleeting. (Monica Drake, author of Clown Girl)

Praise for Motherhood is a brutally honest, touching, and gut-wrenching story about love, loss, family and, possibly, forgiveness. (Richard Thomas, author of Transubstantiate)

About the Author

Phil Jourdan is a musician, translator and columnist from Portugal, living in the UK.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 136 pages
  • Publisher: Zero Books; Reprint edition (May 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1780992645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1780992648
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,640,846 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Phil Jourdan is an author and musician from Portugal living in the UK.

In 2007 he formed the lit-rock band, Paris and the Hiltons. Their music merges many styles, from rock to jazz to electronic to classical, and often takes as its inspiration various modernist literary figures.

His memoir, Praise of Motherhood, revolves around the hardships his late mother endured in trying to cope with her aggressive adolescent son.

He founded and ran Perfect Edge Books, co-founded, and is now editor at Repeater Books and the science fiction and fantasy press, Angry Robot.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

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Phil Jourdan allows the reader to explore his mind in this memoir about the loss of his mother. The ebb and flow of it imitates the mind's natural rhythm, which is, in itself, chaotic. And through such writing, the reader follows the grieving process, finding comfort in memories and imaginings.
Although Sophia passed on, Jourdan gives her new life as he and others remembered her: a compassionate, kind-hearted, strong woman with a touch of mystery. One can truly begin to understand the love that only a mother has when Sophia describes living for the sake of her children. Such is the bond of a mother to those she carried, protected, and loved before she even knew them.
This memoir is a coping mechanism for the author, whose psychosis almost took control of him up until the death of his mother. And it's clear that while it may not have been the cure he was looking for, losing his mother opened Philippe's mind to what Sophia wanted him to understand while she was alive; that she would always be there.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Karbowiak on June 29, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Everything takes on a certain importance when you feel you've lost the biggest part of the world. You are forced to adjust your eyes and see the little things. Feel your way through the impalpable black."

When Phil Jourdan writes this early in his memoir, I am hooked. Told in sparing prose with an honest and sensitive bite, the images and conversations Jourdan recollects about his relationship with his dead mother illuminate a complicated pair of individuals seeking solace in one another. At times, the images Jourdan uses are haunting and relate to the reader all they need to know of his sensitive character and just what is at stake for him by writing this book. For example, the way the writer relates the tale of the dead insect stuck to a wad of gum in his mother's classroom when he is young is perhaps the most powerful image in the book. It foreshadows the nature of his emotional depth, his mother's concern and limited understanding of his psyche at this time, and ultimately, pinpoints just how tough life will be when confronted with more drastic lived-through things. Other images that burn are the pages about the cocooning, and the duct tape Mother image later in the novel. All beautifully wrought.

The first chapter moves slowly for me, but by chapter two, I am breezing through to the end of the pages. I am left with a solemn and giddy joy for the Care of Sons by Mothers, and the sense of humor in the work does much to offset any sentimental feel here. It is a worthwhile read for any writer, reader, mother, son, human because it leaves me feeling full of many complicated emotions; no one-note wonder here. As Jourdan writes, the reader knows and perhaps Jourdan himself knows by the time writing this book is completed: "It was a rare moment in which I could tell myself, without the faintest trace of irony or cynicism, that beauty had saved me." Amen.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. Chambers on August 6, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I have to admit my feelings about this book were all over the place. I had a lot of trouble getting into the book. Jourdan describes a childhood with a liberal mother who seemingly allowed her children, pets, and staff to do pretty much whatever they chose to do. Jourdan apparently chose to start fires. Frequently and using whatever was on hand or had recently annoyed him. He was a pyromaniac suffering from depression, psychosis, and describes himself as a sociopath. After reading further, though, I do wonder if his social isolation stems more from Asperger's Syndrome than being a sociopath. Not only do I not know the author, but I'm hardly qualified to diagnose such a thing. However, just the possibility made me sympathize more with a person who at first seemed beyond sympathy.

Most of the book is written in a stream-of-consciousness style, with an odd way of switching point-of-view mid-paragraph with no warning. It's also deeper and more philosophical than I usually read. Jourdan gets a little wordy at times, but I can't really complain about that as I've been known to do that a time or two myself while writing.

Jourdan goes off on tangents of fantasy to try to explain the parts of his mother's life with which he is unfamiliar. Almost one full chapter is devoted to the speculation of the life story of a man who may or may not even have existed. Also, the book title seems misleading to me. This book is really about the author and his relationship with his mother is a secondary story line.

About halfway through, the book finally "clicked" for me. Jourdan is brutally honest in describing his feelings. He's angry and he's numb and he's confused. Just as many of are after a tragedy, but are afraid to speak those feelings for fear they'll make us look bad or different.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Sarah Martinez on June 24, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a way to prepare the reader I offer a quick summary from the back of the book: 'Psychoanalysis, poetry, and confession all merge to tell the story of an ordinary woman whose death turned her into a symbol for extraordinary motherhood.'

Reading this book made me feel like I was meeting a very delicate and vulnerable person and needed to be careful not even to think the wrong thing, lest I shatter a carefully constructed façade. You are in the middle of another person's most painful and complex thoughts at a terrifying and lonely time. I strongly encourage anyone who picks up this book to read the introduction by Caleb J. Ross as preparation.

One of the beautiful things about this book is how the author managed to present so clearly the intimacy of his relationship with his mother and the experience of remembering her in grief. I have never before read a book where the voice of someone who has already passed comes to life so convincingly. By the end of the book I thought of the author not as "Phil Jourdan," but "Philippe," the child she loved.

The author narrates from the perspective of an impetuous young person, and as such insists upon breaking many of the usual rules and conventions which results in various delightful effects. At one place a dream is rendered with all its unsettling details from the beginning, and expected bits of punctuation are left out. Chapter eleven deserves an especially close reading as a voice that is rarely heard from makes a brief appearance.

The best parts, though, are the passages that introduce us to the distinctive intelligence at work and a powerful honesty. Early on the author presents these words:

'The taboo of the child enamored of his parent is easy to misunderstand.
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