Michael Bloch has rendered a great service to the Alexander Technique community in this, the first full-scale biography of FM Alexander. Using many sources and including interviews with people who knew F.M., Bloch gives us a very insightful and probing look at the personal life of this singular man. The flowing and seamless style of his presentation makes for a very absorbing and enjoyable read.
The book begins with a short history of Tasmania and the events that placed FM’s grandparents in Tasmania Alexander’s early surroundings, childhood, family life and the relationships that contributed to the force of his character are all set up for the reader. Subsequent chapters trace life in Melbourne, his acting career, his development of the technique, and follow him on his journey to London and the establishment of the Technique from what had been a personal discovery.
Most interesting to this reader is the way it is all this is fleshed out with information about his friends and family, and the growing development of his character and thinking
Bloch paints a portrait of a resourceful, free thinking and determined young man who succeed in putting himself on the map in London with little assistance. This is a lesson to many of us who would like to teach more than we do.
Alexander’s years in America, his return to London during the war, his establishment of the training course, the South African Libel trial, his stroke and last years are all described step by step, problem by problem., Alexander always moved forward in very surprising ways; it is just this unpredictability that makes him enigmatic.
Bloch’s task as biographer has been made more difficult by a lack of information and by Alexander’s own efforts to modify the facts of his background to present himself in a better light. For many periods the record is very meager; Bloch remarks that that frustratingly little information is readily available Alexander left all his papers to his younger brother Beaumont and apparently many of these personal papers were destroyed a in a fire. In addition, many of his illustrious pupils apparently left no accounts of their interaction with him. and there are absolutely no examples of his speaking voice either, as the recordings that had been made were destroyed in the war. What then can we really know about this man?
Some of the information is not new to us as teachers; for the rest, Bloch has had to make some suppositions to fill in the blanks. He does that with intelligence and sensitivity. This reader appreciates the information he gives us and the thoughtful way he makes sense of the existing sources, There is enough to give a lot of insight into Alexander’s personality and quirks. The excavation and nearly forensic detail of the often hidden aspects of Alexander’s life fill us in on the deeper aspects of the man. For this reader, this book served to illuminate the person behind the wonderful and life changing discoveries he made.
And the book leaves this reader with many questions. Was Alexander a nearly compulsive gambler? Was he generous of himself? Was he suspicious of help from others? Did he self-sabotage at times and is this at odds with the logical clear-headed thinking he taught? Why were there so many worshipful women flocking around him throughout his life? As Bloch remarks, one feels there is scope here for future research. One hopes that someday new material will come to light to answer these and other questions about this fascinating man.
I hope you read this absorbing and well-written account by Michael Bloch. In its pages, you will discover new ways to view the person and character of the man who developed the Alexander Technique.
© Beret Arcaya. Reproduced with permission.
This edition © Mouritz 2005-2014. All rights reserved.