Volatile Rune

For Life and Literature in a Volatile World

Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing your Life for Good

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“Who would have expected any extraordinary outcome from a farm girl like me, born between the final days of the Great Depression and the first days of World War II? Nevertheless my life’s path has been truly like a lotus flower, blooming over and over against all odds, emerging stronger each time.”

Tina Turner, Happiness Becomes You: A Guide to Changing your Life for Good (Simon & Schuster)

This is the autobiography written by the star during the first lockdown in 2020 when she was in her eighties.  Not just a ‘how I did it’ book, but an account of a spiritual journey,  Tina explains how she based her fabulous success as a solo artist on her practise of Nichiren Buddhism and chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo.   We are reminded that the glamorous and beautiful woman the whole world knew as Tina Turner (who sadly died in May 2023)  didn’t just walk into it all.

After the well documented breakdown of her marriage to Ike, she says:

“When I left Ike in 1976 I was penniless. I wanted to work but it was difficult to relaunch as a solo act.  Whenever someone heard the name “Tina” they’d say “Where’s Ike?”  I lacked the most basic resources I needed to start my new life.”

However through her practise of chanting and study of Nichiren Buddhism, she learned to silence the negative voices which were the result of internalised abuse and discrimination dating back even to her childhood.

‘I knew I was the child my mother never wanted.’

The author explains that when we change our own lives, we don’t just change it for ourselves.  That is the essence of the teaching of the human revolution by foremost buddhist philosopher, Daisaku Ikeda.

Tina says:

“Show business, despite its reputation for being liberal, was pretty repressive when I was looking for work as a solo artist.  I hitup against big biases, with some executives saying I was too old (at 42!)  And my being female and Black didn’t fit their preconceived notions of what a rock ‘n’ roll star should look like.

But I didn’t let anything get me down as I continued to stand up for my life.  I Persevered with patience, compassion and a “never give up” attitude.  I understood that I was not only changing my own karma but in light of the eigth and ninth levels of consciousness, I was also helping to change the collective karma of society and our whole human family.”

It is hard now to imagine a world in which Tina was not loved and feted everwhere she went.  But the fact is that she was nearly fifty when Private Dancer catapaulted her to global fame and a fabulous solo career.   During her life she faced poverty, racism, illness and violence from her ex-husband.

We can’t imagine Beyonce having to face those challenges and she didn’t.  Perhaps Tina changed that for her.


I’m still ‘ploughing’ my way through my 10 books of summer.  Sorry.  Apologies for the pun.  This is No. 6


Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, Olga Tokarczuk

“Had I examined the Ephemerides that evening to see what was happening in the sky, I wouldn’t have gone to bed at all.  Meanwhile, I had fallen very fast asleep;  I had helped myself with an infusion of hops and I also took two valerian pills.  So when I was woken in the middle of the Night by hammering on the door – violent, immoderate and thus ill-omened – I was unable to come round.”

So begins our introduction to Janina Duszejko the protagonist of this work; an eccentric lady in her 60s, she lives alone in an ill-kempt house on a frozen plateau somewhere on the Polish/Czech border, in this latest novel by the polish Nobel laureate .

Only don’t call her Janina she doesn’t like it.   Call her Mrs. Duszejko.  She has two jobs, or three; the first is as a schoolteacher, the second keeping an eye on neighbouring properties that are used as second homes by city dwellers, the third job is to protect animals from the casual savagery of hunting. Oh and add a fourth role to that, namely surviving alone as a woman in her 60s on a frozen plateau etc. etc.

This is a book with a reality built on shifting sands.  Like the mobile phone signal the landscape seems to wander in and out of focus while the humans have strange names like Bigfoot, Oddball, Black Coat.  There is a strong anti-hypocrisy theme. The title is taken from William Blake who also wrote in Auguries of Innocence:

A dog starvd at his Masters Gate

Predicts the ruin of the State

A Horse misusd upon the Road

Calls to Heaven for Human blood

On one level Plow could be read as a simple crime novel, a noir-ish whodunnit investigated by an eccentric reader of horoscopes, in which a number of men from a local hunting club turn up very dead in odd circumstances.   And on that same level I suppose, as a reader, I hoped that the offender would be discovered Miss Marple style and everyone could go back to whatever passes for normality at the end.  But as this is Tokaczuk we know it will not be that simple.  Oddball and Janina get drawn into the police investigation.

The author is far more concerned with existentialism, animal rights, and how hard it is for those of us whose beliefs and tenets that go against the mainstream mantras of powerful elites to be heard or believed.  Plow is part political treatise part dreamscape;  lucid, comforting, golden and harsh by measures. The narrator may make soup for various homeless wanderers that come to her door, but she does not subscribe to comfortable certainties.

“Thus I see the Earth in eclipse.  I see us moving about blindly in eternal gloom, like may bugs trapped in a box by a cruel child.  It’s easy to harm and injure us, to smash up our intricately assembled bizarre existence.”

As a lover of (and translator of) Blake, we know Janina is the most intelligent person in the room.  But will that be enough to get by on?  Although it has its moments of darkness I very much enjoyed this book.  I felt a great empathy for the struggling heroine making her lonely saucepans of soup in a cold kitchen and desperately worried about her two missing dogs.

I haven’t read Flights, Olga Tokarczuk’s Booker prize winning work,  but this has encouraged me to do so.


About the Author

The author of nine novels, three short story collections and translated into thirty languages,her previous novel Flights won the Man Booker prize for translated fiction in Jennifer Croft’s translation.Olga Tokarczuk was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2019.

Drive your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, originally published in 2009, this sixth paperback edition by Fitzcarraldo Editions  in 2022.




The Volatile Muse

Poetry, literature, film and all things in between

Runes are ancient scripts, magical signs for secret or hidden laws.   I chose a name which I felt brought to mind the infinitely variable nature of the written word.


The Volatile Muse

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