• Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

The Art of Losing Control

ByMaisy Hallam

Sep 20, 2018

The Art of Losing Control is a philosophical non-fiction that begins to answer a fundamental question – how do we seek to switch off our minds? Influenced by his traumatic accident and years of social anxiety and depression, Jules Evans provides a vivid account of the various methods used to achieve ecstatic experiences. We are invited to explore how we are capable of many states of emotions whilst learning the difference between healthy and unhealthy attempts used to satisfy and escape our egos. Ranging from the arts, drugs, religion, sex and spiritualism, Evans expertly crafts an insight into the “widespread urge to lose control, turn of the mind, find your authentic self [and] seek intense experiences.”

Immediately, one of the most compelling and interesting aspects of the novel is the way it is structured and how Evans balances his own personal experiences and anecdotal eclectic moments with scientific relevance and literature. You are guided through the book in the same way one would explore a festival,divided into different tents and zones. The book  begins at ‘The Entrance Gate’, an introduction into spiritualism; it moves to ‘The Revival Tent’, where Evans joins a Christian group to investigate if communities play a role in making sense of ecstatic experiences. It then explores ‘The Ecstatic Cinema’, which uncovers why the arts offer an alternate route for ecstatic experiences and how music can heal our psyche by transporting us to different worlds. Finally, ‘The Mosh Pit’ uncovers the darker side of how war and violence create ecstatic experiences.

Despite some admittedly confusing philosophical jargon, Evans’ honesty, humour and wisdom allow this book to stand out from the crowd. There is comfort to be found in his ability to articulate emotions we can struggle to comprehend ourselves; he takes the simplicity of ‘being lost in a book’ and brings to the surface the reality of different modes for escapism. He doesn’t attempt to lecture but instead offers insight into the highs and lows of different experiences, particularly concerning words of warning regarding drug misuse.

Anyone can relate to something in Evans’ ‘Festival of Ecstasy’. The raw realism of Evans’ own personal experiences and hard-hitting truths ground the novel in a message of self-awareness. He offers a space to admit that we are not alone in wanting to escape reality and feel something bigger – that life is a journey of self-discovery in construction of our own identities. In an ego-conscious western world Evans addresses highly relevant experiences of internet addiction in the age of social media, anxiety, mental health and feeling lonely, isolated and unloved.

There is  certainly a lot to gain from this book. Aiming to change the way we think about how we feel, the book offers various viewpoints so the reader can connect to what they find personally relatable. Every page offers a new perspective and idea on ways to address our emotions. It’s a book to keep returning to, filled with highly memorable words of wisdom.  


The Art of Losing Control by Jules Evans.

(Canongate, 2017)


Image: Wesley Nitsckie via Flickr

By Maisy Hallam

By day, Maisy is Literature Editor for The Student and a fourth-year student of Linguistics and English Language at The University of Edinburgh. By night, she is an environmental activist and avid crime fiction reader. Follow her on her slowly developing Twitter, @lostinamaiz.

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