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    What I'm Reading Paid Member

    The Voice Is All: The Lonely Victory of Jack Kerouac By Joyce Johnson Viking Press, 2012 512 pp.; $32.95 hardcover “[Kerouac] was the first one I heard chanting the Three Refuges in Sanskrit, with a voice like Frank Sinatra.” —Allen Ginsberg, in an interview in New Age Journal, April 1976. In 1941, I was newborn and oblivious to the ways that post–WWII anti-Communist fervor and the fears roiled by the existence of the atomic bomb had produced a stifling culture from which many creative people sought release. In that year, Jack Kerouac dropped out of Columbia University to join those peers and seek his authentic self as an artist. More »
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    Books in Brief Spring 2013 Paid Member

    Five years after the publication of Breakfast with Buddha, a novel that follows Otto “Mr. Ordinary” Ringling and the Siberian Buddhist master Volya Rinpoche on a cross-country road trip, Roland Merullo returns with Lunch with Buddha (AJAR Contemporaries, 2012, $16.85, 347 pp., paper). Lunch takes Otto and Rinpoche on another road trip, this time from Washington State to North Dakota, where Otto’s sister Cecelia and Rinpoche—now married with a child—run a Buddhist retreat center. Merullo doesn’t shy away from using suffering as the building block of his characters’ growth: in Breakfast, Otto drives West to settle his parents’ affairs after their fatal car accident, while the sequel begins with the death of Otto’s wife, who has asked him to spread her ashes in Washington. More »
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    A Dreamlike Path Paid Member

    When the Iron Bird FliesDirected by Victress Hitchcock Produced by Victress Hitchcock and Amber Bemak Released October 2012 96 minutes Download, Alive Mind Cinema, $19.95When the Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959, following the unsuccessful Lhasa uprising, the Tibetan diaspora began in earnest. In her new documentary, When the Iron Bird Flies, longtime Buddhist practitioner Victress Hitchcock traces perhaps the most unexpected outcome of this tragedy, the arrival of Tibetan Buddhism in the West. “Everything has two sides,” the Tibetan teacher Tsoknyi Rinpoche deadpans in an early scene. “Unfortunate side is we lost country. Fortunate side is dharma went all over the world.” More »
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    Angry Cops and Shallow Cads Paid Member

    The Angry Buddhist By Seth Greenland Europa Editions, 2012 400 pp.; $16 paper The cover of my copy of Seth Greenland’s new book The Angry Buddhist shows a dreamy Southern California landscape with palms, a red-tiled roof, a desert mountain, and a swath of blue sky. Hovering in the sky is a quote from Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Larry David: “The Angry Buddhist is a great novel. It’s satirical, it’s political, it’s sexual. All the things I love dearly. Finally, something to come home to.” Having recently read the book from cover to cover, I can attest that it is indeed satirical, political, sexual—and rather a blast to come home to. But is it a great novel? I think that’s a question worth asking—and I don’t mean that to sound even remotely flip. More »
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    Journey Through Samsara Paid Member

    SamsaraDirected by Ron FrickeProduced by Mark MagidsonReleased August 24, 201299 minutes Samsara is a film without dialogue or narration, a series of wondrous and occasionally bewildering images set to a vibrant original score. Director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson labored nearly five years to complete the film, traveling to 25 countries and editing the resulting footage together as a team. Their subjects range from a Buddhist monastery in Tibet to an auto-wreckage yard in California, from an ancient city in Burma to a modern prison in the Philippines. More »
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    Books in Brief Winter 2012 Paid Member

    Anyone who knows Huston Smith from his classic work, The World’s Religions, is in for a surprise with And Live Rejoicing: Chapters from a Charmed Life—Personal Encounters with Spiritual Mavericks, Remarkable Seekers, and the World’s Great Religious Leaders (New World Library, 2012, $15.95, 248 pp. paper). While Smith’s first memoir, Tales of Wonder, outlined the renowned religion scholar’s remarkable life, the new book fills in the details. And what a “life of joy, even in the vale of sorrow” it is. Smith lays it all out in pithy anecdotes, many of them about family, or friends like the Dalai Lama. More »