Tulsa, OK, United States | Member Since 2009
Using my monthly credit for this book was a mistake. Having enjoyed "The Snow Leopard" and "At Play in the Fields of the Lord," I expected "Shadow Country" to be wonderful, especially since it won the National Book Award. But now I would like to know what the judges for the National Book Award were smoking when they read this. I'm even wondering if they read it or just got caught up in Peter Matthiessen's reputation and wanted to honor him in his old age. I am a fairly literary reader but except for the author's fascination with Mr. Watson I don't even see the point of this book. It's a labored and repetitious retelling over 40 hours of what would have been better told in a short story. Heminway might have told the whole Watson legend in five pages. Faulkner might have taken 200 pages. But more than 1,000 pages is beyond taste. Making the Audible version even worse, this narrator's attempt to do various Southern accents is more confusing than helpful. Many narrators are able to create distinctive voices for each character. But this book is mostly told in a high pitched stage whisper that grates on the nerves very quickly. This only makes following a long, long drawn out story told by multiple narrators hard to follow. I checked over at the Amazon Web page for this book and it appears many readers of the print and Kindle editions had the same reaction. I realize other readers appear to have loved this book, but I for one cannot see it. I would suggest reading a few pages of the print edition in either the libary or a bookstore to see if you really want to spend 40 hours with this tome.
This audio book makes you feel as if you were spending a snowy evening in Scotland in the home of a popular scholar-author, who is discussing his favorite poet and how poetry changed his life.
Alexander McCall Smith, famous as an author of mystery novels, acknowledges that W.H. Auden (1907-1973) is probably best known to the present generation for "Funeral Blues," the poem recited in the popular film "Four Weddings and a Funeral."
But McCall Smith wants us to come to know Auden as a spiritual poet, who at the outbreak of World War II wrote these lines for a refugee friend:
We fall down in the dance, we make
The old ridiculous mistake,
But always there are such as you
Forgiving, helping what we do.
If McCall Smith's love for Auden resonates with today's readers, the next step is to explore Auden's poems and find their own meanings in the timeless verses.
I'm very conflicted about this lecture. On the one hand, I think Wayne Muller is right on in his critique of the American busy, busy, busy mania. We must be doing, doing, doing. Work, work, work, play, play, play. Business and political people bragging that they are virtually on the job 24/7. Their children shuttled from school to soccer practice to ballet and violin lessons. God forbid a child would have a minute of unstructured time to have fun. Obviously, this is a society that could do well to observe a day of rest, especially now when Thanksgiving is being transformed from a family dinner into a mad shopping spree.
So Muller's criticism of our hyperactive society is valid. It is helpful that as a Christian minister he brings in perspectives from other religions, especially the Sabbath as it has been understood and practiced for thousands of years in Judaism. It's good to reflect that in the creation story God was not a 24/7 kind of guy. Adding in the contemplative, meditative and prayer practices of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam are also helpful to building Muller's case.
However, in the last hour especially his prescriptions seem to go off on a New Age tangent. Couples stripping naked for a Sabbath bath where they confess the sins of the past week to each other seems like an attempt to meld Hippie sexuality with Catholic guilt. At other points it is hard to tell if Muller is advocating for Holy Communion or a wine and cheese party. There is a sort of whatever works quality to his prescriptions where Sabbath observers can either light a candle, confess their sins and give money to the homeless OR pop a cork on a bottle of champagne, play board games and have sex. Maybe this "whatever floats your boat" approach will work but it sounded too much like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills meets the Sunday sermonette.
Muller's suggestion that we slow down and take a day off to relax once a week was very welcome. But some of the examples of how he and his friends observe the Sabbath felt like Too Much Information.
This interview offers a rare chance to hear Carl Jung explain Jungian Psychology on his own terms. In a little more than an hour, Jung covers the basics from archetypes to personality types. He explains the reasons for his break with Freud and pokes fun at Otto Rank's birth trauma theory by noting that while "you fall out of Heaven," birth happens to everybody, so it is a fact not a trauma. Throughout the interview, Jung avoids dogma and rigid categorizations, explaining for example that there are no pure introverts or extroverts.
As for the sound quality, it is true that it is not the greatest. But it was recorded more than 50 years ago with magnetic tape technology that seems primitive today. Jung's English is very good but he does have a Swiss German accent that takes a few minutes to get used to. That said, this interview rewards listeners for their efforts.
The teachings and guided meditations here are helpful for the short-term if you want to relax and get a good night's sleep.
The teachings on accepting yourself and everybody else in the world are too idealistic. Although you may feel like a spiritual giant for awhile, your "acceptance of what is" will likely last until the first driver cuts you off on the freeway or a co-worker takes credit for work you've done. Then you are likely to revert to your previous status as a human being with all the traits of anger, fear and frustration that characterize the human condition.
As a more pragmatic teacher once said: "Nobody rises above human."
If you're looking to relax without a martini, then this program might help you for a night or two. But if you're looking for a philosophy of life, you may be disappointed.
What is a garage philosopher? That label comes from one of the editors of the fascinating if quirky musings of Philip K. Dick. Known to readers and movie goers as a science fiction writer, this long and winding tome follows a different road. A dropout from UC Berkeley, Dick pursued his own independent studies in philosophy and religion. His Exegesis begins in the mid-1970s following a mystical experience that refocused the author's life. The journals follow his attempts to not only chronicle that life-changing event but make sense of what appears to be nonsensical. Seeking answers that may not be there to find, he reads the Jerusalem Bible and the philosophical histories of Will Durant. His interests range from the Jesus Freak Christianity of the 1970s to the Buddhist and Vedanta philosophies that were popularized in his native California. Slowly he develops his own theological viewpoint that informs the novels he wrote shortly before his death, which came ironically just months before the movie Blade Runner made him famous. The editors, who distilled stacks and stacks of handwritten journal entries into this book, readily admit that some of Dick's insights are screwy but others are profound and almost every entry is compelling if for no other reason than the passion the writer puts into his work. I have listened to this wonderful reading by Fred Stella over and over for more than a year and am still amazed to find new insights. Philip K. Dick may sometimes seem to be from another planet but he is never boring.
This is the story of an aging cobbler bereft of his own family, who finds solace taking care of the poor and desperate people who pass by his little shop. It is a morality tale that applies to any time or place where me-first obsessions overrule the better angels of human nature. Advanced apologies if the story seems too religious for some secular readers. If Tolstoy was here, he would apologize too. Well, actually he wouldn't. He had the courage of his convictions.
First, this is a book that probably comes off better as an audio work rather than a print edition. It is largely a compilation of interviews and letters, which lend themselves to being read aloud. The readers here, especially Campbell Scott are very compelling. Reviews I've read of the print edition complain of the book's length and make it sound like a slog to read. So for those with a choice, the Audible edition is probably the best bet.
As for the content itself, this book cries out for a skilled editor. It is too long and some sections, especially the authors' analysis, could have been cut to make a more readable book. The authors' attempts to imitate Salinger's style are cringe-worthy but fortunately don't dominate the book.
The authors especially go off track in expressing the dubious idea that Salinger's study of Vedanta led him to stop publishing, renounce the world and live a hermit-like existence. The authors seem to think that this is a Vedanta prescription for living. I have been a member of the Vedanta Society for more than a decade and that is not a way of life followed even by the monks, who publish books and travel, give lectures and even have Facebook pages. Being a Vedanta devotee did not stop Christopher Isherwood from living an active gay life in Hollywood while helping translate Vedanta literature, publishing his own novels and memoirs, lecturing at universities and giving press interviews. The SALINGER authors' repeated contention that Vedanta "killed" Salinger's art is just not credible. They misconstrue Vedanta as a monolithic and dogmatic belief system with extreme lifestyle restrictions when it is anything but that. Members of the Vedanta Society as well as monks and nuns are free to follow the spiritual path that resonates with them individually. Anyone who doubts that might want to read Isherwood's MY GURU AND HIS DISCIPLE.
From the many interviews and letters that make up this book, it appears that Salinger did not live the life of a hermit in a cave. He travelled, attended sporting events, corresponded with life-long friends, loved television, and read The New York Times. As several people quoted in the book point out, the myth of Salinger the hermit stemmed mostly from the fact that for many possible reasons, he stopped publishing his stories, avoided press interviews, shunned the New York and L.A. social elite, and wouldn't allow The Catcher in the Rye to be made into a movie. He wasn't a hermit. He was an author who avoided the marketing and media publicity machine that dominates American pop culture.
A good biography of Salinger is yet to be written. This is obviously not it. But for those interested in the man and the artist this book contains a lot of very interesting information.
I've been waiting a long time for a good audio version of Hsin Hsin Ming and so I was very happy to discover this excellent overview of this key text in Zen literature. The author does a good job of doing a line-by-line explanation of the poem. I especially appreciated his use of the variety of translations in this commentary. He showed that there is more than one way to interpret the text. As with all things Zen, listeners are free to reach their own conclusions.
I was disappointed in this book. To begin with the title is misleading. A Zen critique of the popular culture's obsession with finding a happy solution to every human problem might have been interesting. But this is a very egocentric book about the author's experience working as a psychoanalyst and a Zen teacher. The stories he tells about his own special experiences fail to demonstrate that he has gained self awareness from his practice of either discipline. He is quick to point out the foibles and failures of past and present Zen teachers and practitioners but it sounds like church gossip. Far from bringing any new perspective to Zen or psychoanalysis the author supports the hierarchical structure that is common to most religions and academies. If I thought the author's views were all there was to Zen, I would want no more to do with it.
Father Martin's meditation on Thomas Merton helped me understand what Merton meant by the false self. It is the self we develop to hide our true self from friends, family and co-workers. It is the social self that attempts to appear hip, slick and cool when none of those things are true. The false self is a road block to finding who you truly are.
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