SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2016 TORONTO BOOK AWARDS
The problem of consciousness may just be a semantic one. The brain absorbs a sea of sensory input, the tiniest fraction of which reaches the shore of our awareness. We pay attention to what is most novel, most necessary at the time. At its most reductive, the word 'consciousness' refers to the synchronized firing of neurons across multiple areas of the brain, the mental experience of attending.
But should consciousness be summed up simply by its subsconscious mechanism? I would prefer a more imaginative answer.
After his father, Saul, undergoes brain surgery and slips into a coma, Howard Akler begins to reflect on Saul's life, the complicated texture of consciousness and Akler's struggles with writing and his own unpredictable mind. With echoes of Paul Auster's The Invention of Solitude and Philip Roth's Patrimony, Men of Action treads the line between memoir and meditation, and is at once elegiac, spare, and profoundly intimate.
Howard Akler is the author of The City Man, which was nominated for the Amazon First Novel Award, the City of Toronto Book Award, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.