Men of Action
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.
'Like Harley J. Spiller’s Keep the Change, Howard Akler’s Men of Action similarly compresses a great deal – whole lives – into a very few pages … As might be expected, Men of Action delves into the father-son relationship, while also encompassing the father’s life, the parents’ marriage and the son’s youth in Toronto, where Mr. Akler still lives. But its more submerged subject is the act of writing itself, which is demonstrated with the carefully observed, resonant economy of poetry.'
– The New York Times Holiday 2015 Gift Guide
‘What makes someone who they are? What details and actions explain their inner thoughts? What moments matter in the telling of a life? These are futile questions, but what matters is that Akler is asking them in a way we haven’t previously seen. Men of Action not only gracefully succeeds in depicting the nature of human tragedy, but the inherent failures of language to capture it. The book’s brevity is its strength – a genuine testament to the writer’s talent that he is able to take us so far with so little.'
– Stacey May Fowles, The Globe and Mail
‘Men of Action is an insightful and heartbreaking exploration of consciousness, familial relationships, and the sense of self. As he and his family stand a restless vigil through his father's post-operative coma, Howard Akler explores and reorganizes the past, present, and future of his relationship with his father. Immensely relatable, this collection of essays delves fearlessly into loss, grief, and the understanding that often the moments in which we choose to be completely still are when we take the most important actions.’
– 2016 Toronto Book Awards Jury Citation