Debra Kastner

 Elliott Zaff's memoir is both an internal and external journey to find emotional intelligence. The majority of the book details his interactions with The Professor, a man whom he labels a "genuine genius." During his time with The Professor, he encountered many fascinating people and traveled extensively. This book is long and not an easy read, but is well worth the effort as the reader truly learns what emotional intelligence is and how to use it in their own lives. 


Maria Beltran

 The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts out by Elliott Zaff is a realistic novel based on the author's life and his interactions with a brilliant 74-year-old professor. Canadian-born Elliot does not have a happy childhood and he comes to California as a young man for what is supposedly a short holiday. The year is 1974 and the twenty-year-old young man, just three years out of high school, does not know what to do with his life. As fate would have it, he hears about an upcoming lecture by a highly influential psychoanalyst-philosopher and decides to check it out. This will drastically change his life forever and brings him closer to the truth that is all too elusive for many of us.

Elliot Zaff's The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts out is a story that is both philosophical and introspective. It is about a young man's journey to find his place in the world, which can only be achieved by finding the true meaning of his existence. Meeting and working for Professor Donald is the biggest turning point in his life. A well traveled and highly educated man, we get to learn of the professor's teachings from this book as well as the enormous influence he has on the young Elliot Zaff. And behind the twists and turns of the author's life, we get a glimpse of the human struggle that is all too familiar. The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts out attempts to find the answers to existential questions many of us try to answer as we, too, make our own tumultuous journeys called life. 

5 Stars on 9/12/2018

Divine Zape

 The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts Out by Elliott Zaff is an interesting story filled with insights and lessons from one man’s journey towards finding meaning in life. The protagonist takes readers on a journey that explores how he transitioned from boyhood to manhood, and the role an intelligent professor played in his life. The narrative is inspired by real life events and it is told in a first person voice that is reflective and almost mellow. The story is filled with humor, at times grim, and is an honest exploration of reality; the social and political commentaries enrich the setting and augment the realism in the narrative.

Character development is well done and readers get a good idea of who the protagonist is. His mother left home in an effort to save the two youngest of the family and herself, and this also sent a powerful message to the protagonist that he needed to leave. In his quest for meaning, he meets Professor Donald and, in this book, he shares insights and wisdom from the professor, particularly his teachings on how to handle our emotions. It’s a “tool that is simple, effective and causes an internal awakening.”

Each chapter ends with tips on how to use what the author calls “Emotional Inversion” to trump emotions, attain deeper levels of emotional freedom, and evolve towards our better versions. In a somewhat humorous and startled tone, the narrator says: "… it took me years before I finally and actually heard what people were saying to me. But by then I had already accepted it as a nickname without really thinking about what it meant. Imagine being called an asshole for 5... 6... 7 years before you realize that the people saying it were not kidding.” The strength of this tale lies in its ability to integrate real life lessons into the narrative. Most readers will undoubtedly identify with Elliott Zaff’s protagonist.

4 Stars on 9/12/2018

Romuald Dzemo

 The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts out by Elliott Zaff documents one man’s quest for meaning and how an encounter with an eminent professor transforms the way he looks at life, understands and treats himself, and those around him. Although this is a realistic novel, there are strong hints that it could be the retelling of a life, because it is true to life and the intimate tone is so powerful and convincing. The narrator has had his share of suffering and pain growing up in Canada, until the moment he decides to make a fresh start in the US. In this adventure he meets Professor Donald, a man of intelligence and gifted with a rare sense of humanity. He will drink from the wellsprings of knowledge from this professor and get so many lessons on life.

The themes of family, friendship, personal growth, and the meaning of life are amongst those treated in this narrative. Readers will want to follow the dynamics of the relationship between teacher and student. The author writes: “Professor Donald often took into his care alienated and discarded individuals of our society and cared for them like an extended communal family. He always helped the wandering, lost and stranded people.” The professor’s doctrine of “Emotional Inversion” is a powerful tool to trump personal emotions and allow those emotions to guide one towards one’s purpose. Elliott Zaff has a unique narrative voice and the writing unearths deep spiritual, philosophical, and psychological truths. This novel asks questions that will challenge readers to rethink the way they live their lives and answer the question: “Why am I here?” While this novel features interesting characters and a delightful lyrical narrative style, it is also a thought-provoking book that asks serious questions about life. 

5 Stars on 9/12/2018

Jamie Michele

 This was a tricky book to review for a couple of reasons. The first is that the author expressly states that it is fiction based on his real life experiences, which makes a review that isn't stellar feel like a judgment on someone else's life experiences. I need to make it clear that this review is reflective of the writing style and technical aspects alone and not the events that take place in the story itself. The second part that makes it tricky ties in slightly with the first, in that although the author does expressly state it is a work of fiction, there isn't much about it that is reminiscent of anything but non-fiction...and this is where the star rating comes into play: with the execution of the story itself.

This quasi-memoir is written in the first person but is neither done as a stream of consciousness nor with anything other than narrative. In a biography the latter sometimes works (although it's incredibly rare), but in fiction it just doesn't. There's no immersion for me as a reader through dialogue at all. There are no conversations played out, there's no body language, there's nothing to tease the imagination. It's exclusively a book that tells a story instead of shows it. I think the overall story itself is interesting enough to make for an excellent piece of fiction – all of the right bone structure is there. In its current state, it is done the disservice of not having a writing style that will appeal to a wide audience, and that saddens me because this is a story that deserves to be read.

3 Stars on 9/12/2018

Ray Simmons

 The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts out is one of the weirdest and longest book titles I have ever seen. This is understandable because this is one of the strangest books I have ever read. Having said that, I liked it. Elliot Zaff is not the best writer I have ever read but his book is as authentic as anything done by a master craftsman. This book is a tribute to a teacher. I can relate to that as I have had teachers who have influenced my life in a similar manner that Professor Donald influenced Elliot. Sometimes we forget just how lost we can feel as a young person trying to figure out life and the world we live in. If we are lucky, we find a mentor like Professor Donald to help us in our attempt to contribute to humanity and make something of ourselves.

The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts out is, in some ways, a quest. Elliot Zaff is looking for something. He is looking for answers. He is looking for meaning. He is looking for love. Professor Donald helps him to find at least some of the answers he seeks. He helps Elliot through the use of intense and perceptive dialogues. These interactions are the best part of the book. Travel is also an important element in this book. New places, new people, new experiences, and new chances to grow. This book isn’t for everyone but if you are looking for a unique voice with a keen, perceptive take on this reality, then read The Intensity of the Teacher’s Whisper can Rip your Guts out. 

4 Stars on 9/12/2018