A conversation with author and publisher Stephen Crimi about his new book, Katabatic Wind: Good Craic Fueled by Fumes from the Abyss, is likely to include discussion of politics, the westernization of yoga, science, myth and more. The collection reflects those wide-ranging but interconnected interests, with essays including a comparison between the Western and Eastern sacred tradition through the characters of Hamlet and Arjuna; an unusual take on Plato’s cave allegory; and two detailed analyses of rock songs.
The prose is at once academic and personal, with flashes of Crimi’s wit shining through. Perhaps the author best describes his work in this introduction: “The Irish love nothing better than what they call ‘good craic’: enjoyable and uplifting conversation. What better discourse could prevail than amongst our higher selves?” Crimi will celebrate the release of Katabatic Wind at Malaprop’s on Tuesday, June 21, at 7 p.m.
Although Katabatic Wind is the first book Crimi has solo-authored, he’s well-acquainted with the publishing world. He’s the founder of Logosophia Books, a local independent publishing house that got its start in 2008 and has released books mostly by local authors. In a way, says Crimi, publishing his own book is easier than publishing another author’s. “They’re my dreams, so I can deal with the clouds floating away,” he says. “[As a publisher], I’m dealing with other people’s dreams and their aspirations and trying to do the best that I can for them, so there’s more pressure.”
So what finally inspired Crimi to put his own work out into the world? He says it was a long time coming. Some of the essays have been in existence for years; two have been published in Moksha Journal and Journal of Anthroposophy in Australia. Some are new, while others have undergone extensive revisions. Crimi says the desire to put these essays together became apparent within the past few years. “Not to get all new-agey, but somehow the divine feminine seemed to want some sort of perspective,” he says. “And that’s what mostly this book is about.”
Katabatic Wind is also largely informed by Crimi’s studies of traditional yoga at Yoga Anand Ashram in Amityville, N.Y., where he lived for more than a decade. By the time he had reached the end of his time at the ashram, says Crimi, “I just felt deep inside that I was putting on some other clothes by adopting this Indian approach. We were going, ‘Namaste, namaste, namaste,’ which is beautiful, but every time there was a part of me that felt it was false, and I really started thinking about these Western roots and trying to understand it.”
To do that, Crimi looked to ancient Greece. “As Westerners,” he explains, “we don’t understand the ground that we are standing on, and the ground that we are standing on comes from Greece.”
The theme of comparing and contrasting Western and Eastern modalities runs through the book. The related theme of grief is also prominent. “It’s the grief of this disconnection,” says Crimi. “Rumi writes about it. There is a standard grief of being disconnected from the divine.”
When asked about the audience for Katabatic Wind, Crimi is self-deprecating. “It’s an impossible question,” he says. “I’m happy if anybody buys it and reads it. It’s an honor.” Certainly, those who have some knowledge of philosophy will find more to love about the book. A familiarity with the ancient stories and literary characters discussed (Orpheus, Arjuna, Hamlet) is helpful, but not necessary to learn from and enjoy the writing.
“There is this tradition of extra academic, learned writing, so there are a number of people who are into that,” says Crimi. “It’s not an easy book, and it’s not meant to be.”
Still, it’s a book that readers will benefit from digging into — especially those who have felt that push and pull between Eastern and Western, ancient and contemporary. “The best books for me are the ones that take the stuff that you’ve been thinking about that has been inchoate, and make you say, ‘Yeah, that’s it,’” says Crimi. “So it’s not new, but it really puts into words all the stuff you’ve been thinking.”
WHAT: Stephen Crimi presents Katabatic Wind
WHERE: Malaprop’s, 55 Haywood St., malaprops.com
WHEN: Tuesday, June 21, 7 p.m. Free