Sylvia Fraser: The Book of Strange

By Oosterom, Nelle | Herizons, Winter 1993 | Go to article overview
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Sylvia Fraser: The Book of Strange

Oosterom, Nelle, Herizons


With the mind of a skeptic and the heat of a mystic, Sylvia Fraser has taken on the daunting task of explaining the paranormal.

Her latest book, the Book of Strange, is an ambitious, wide-ranging work in which Fraser explores such phenomena as telepathy, psychic healing, precognition, ghosts, possession and reincarnation. It's a rational journey, drawing heavily on science for explanations while weaving in Fraser's own experiences of the paranormal.

You may remember Fraser as the bestselling Canadian author of My Father's House: A Memoir of Incest and of Healing (1987). There is a strong link between this book and her earlier one.

"There's no question there's a connection between the two books," said Fraser in an interview. "The memories of my incest came back marked by incidents of the paranormal, beginning with my father's death, which really was the beginning to permission in my life to remember.

"The thing was, once I had brought all that into my consciousness, these incidences continued... and they were no longer taking me into the darkness of my past, they were taking me into what I can only call an illuminated future."

When Fraser, an acclaimed novelist and award-winning journalist, wrote My Father's House, she was told that she was committing professional suicide because nobody would believe her. Her critics were proven wrong. Not only was she believed, her book came out at a time when the mainstream media was starting to treat stories about the recall of repressed incest memories as credible, even commonplace.

But that vindication did not make writing The Book of Strange any easier for Fraser, who feels at risk of losing her hard-won credibility.

"In my view, the Book of Strange is out to break far more barriers than My Father's House ever did," she said.

"The burden of this book, really, is that to talk about the `meaning of life' within society today, you have to run against both Monty Python, who used that as a joke heading for one of their comedies, and Dan Quayle, who uses the `meaning of life" in terms of something called family values.

"There's so much cynical reaction to even using the phrase that anyone who attempts to look a little deeper than the materialistic surface of Western society really is in trouble already, they're discredited even by the search."

One of the things Fraser learned as an incest survivor was to believe in her own subjective experience. Consequently, her own encounters with the paranormal appear as touchstones throughout The Book of Strange.

She does not make sweeping claims of elaborate past lives or all-knowing spirit personal. She has had premonitions often through dreams of the death of people close to her.

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