my reading dates are inaccurate. i was reading this over at least two months. it isn't that the book is dull, although in the book's present, not a grmy reading dates are inaccurate. i was reading this over at least two months. it isn't that the book is dull, although in the book's present, not a great deal happens, that's true. but no, it took me absolutely ages to read this because the further i got, the less often i felt like reading it. that is, the prose is so mellifluous, the images so striking, the characters so mythical yet utterly believable, that i felt i needed to be in a situation where i could give ALL my attention to the reading, in order to justify reading at all. if i was tired, or only had a few minutes after lunch -- no, not good enough. this book, its subject matter, its speculations about "deep matters of human nature" (cannot pin it down more than that just now), its exquisite ability to leap through time, its artfulness, its artlessness, its gentle yet unwavering voice, requires all of you. ...more
What I didn't like: the continual stream of Dad jokes, low-budget swears, slang and apostrophizations ('freakin',' 'darnedest', 'bit the big one,' etcWhat I didn't like: the continual stream of Dad jokes, low-budget swears, slang and apostrophizations ('freakin',' 'darnedest', 'bit the big one,' etc.). Then there are all the tongue-in-cheek Trademarked names, and generally dated pop culture references that Warner employs throughout the book - all, it would appear, to keep things from getting too serious
What I honestly can understand the intent behind even if I don't usually love the execution: see above. While these 'lighter' elements of the book are neither particularly punk nor especially Zen, they do succeed in helping the reader subconsciously not to take the concepts of intro-level Zen as too heavy a matter. Would I have read this book quite as eagerly without feeling that this pseudo-safety net was provided for my overanxious mind – perhaps not. Plus, Brad Warner has a persona just like every other writer. If he chooses for his persona to be 'down to earth Zen punk rocker offset by a cringey sense of humour,' what's really wrong with that?
What I got from it: It would be ironic for me to say I found this book rewarding (Warner pounds home the point that Buddhists live in the moment, not for the promise of any mystical future goody). But it kept my rather depressed brain occupied in a less-helpless place for a while and even convinced me to start practicing zazen.
As I've seen noted in reviews, the hardline punk and hardline Zen crowds will probably not contain many readers for this kind of book. But I think I could read this book many times, even just flipping through to a page or chapter here and there. You can tell Brad Warner has studied Zen and Dogen's writings for a very long time because he can boil down concepts that are almost totally foreign to most Westerners to an essence, one we can at least try to reach our heads around. He writes with grumbliness and self-deprecation, but also with real humility, understanding and compassion. I'd definitely like to get my paws on Hardcore Zen.
P.S. I just have to admit it, Brad. Sometimes I kinda like Dad jokes.
"The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you land there."
Early into reading this book, I have to admit, I developed a majo"The transformation of the heart is a wondrous thing, no matter how you land there."
Early into reading this book, I have to admit, I developed a major *~Thing~* for Patti Smith. Just Kids (which I finished yesterday) may be the more critically acclaimed, but M Train truly won me over.
Her love of coffee didn't hurt. Every few paragraphs or pages at most, it seemed she was mentioning her umpteenth cup of the morning; the daily routine of writing at her favourite café, and recalled dreams of owning one herself; laughing reluctantly at herself as she plots dire revenge on the snooty woman who takes "her" table at said café; her tale of visiting Morocco primarily to seek out the best coffee in the world (it appears she wasn't disappointed). Coffee is also my "drug of choice," thus far. It is a simple and very human penchant. So is her naming a remote control a "channel changer," and talking about feeding her cats. (Question: What happens to these cats when she inevitably skips on to another country, like Japan or Iceland, for a few weeks?)
But this was only what struck me most in the early pages. Later I continued to be drawn in by her unpretentious prose, her simple but imaginatively poetic images, records of her dreams. (I don't tend to have very interesting dreams, usually, so anyone who has positively artistic dreams fascinates me for that reason alone.) Smith's personal mythologies permeate her narrative, making it at times heavy with the mystical. Time crumbles and is forgotten under the weight of memory. Her black-and-white Polaroid photographs scattered throughout add to this sense of meaning outside of time. Loss figures heavily in the book: Fred's death, her son and daughter no longer children, the deaths of admired authors, some of whom are also friends; and even various meaningful objects that have gone missing over the years – she openly mourns all of these. The book's dedicated to Sam Shepard, as the cowboy who continually moseys into her dreams with cryptic advice – another person she loved and lost. On the other hand, Smith also gives equal attention to her beloved detective shows, her meditations on artist-"masters" (Bolaño and others), and her travels, both long past and recent.
After obtaining Just Kids and reading it feverishly, I think that somehow this work feels more intimate and (naturally) more immediate than the former. We follow her train of everyday thought and daydream more than we did while hearing the details of her younger struggle, relationships and rise to fame. Although she is decades older than I, I felt such kinship with Smith at many moments. For instance, when she remarks that she couldn't have been a detective like her fictional heroes because she doesn't feel very observant; her "eyes tend to roll inward." That hits home for me, although I think such a prolific and striking artist has to be more observant than she here gives herself credit for.
Finally, this book caused me to wonder again for the first time in years, how to be an artist? How to know that one IS an artist? Compared to the late-'70s interviews and performances of Smith's rock and roll-poetry, her voice is so much more quiet and full of humility, full of experience, but her sense of wonder is not dampened. I felt as I read that she was like a patiently smiling friend, showing me one way of knowing onesself – through art, whoever has made it – and sharing her richly-illumined inner world. She reflects: "Writers and their process. Writers and their books. I cannot assume the reader will be familiar with them all, but in the end is the reader familiar with me? Does the reader wish to be so? I can only hope, as I offer my world on a platter filled with allusions ...."...more
there are two kinds of readers: those who adore margaret atwood and those who haven't finished anything she's written. i'm kidding, of course; i can othere are two kinds of readers: those who adore margaret atwood and those who haven't finished anything she's written. i'm kidding, of course; i can objectively understand why some don't enjoy her style – i'm in the former camp, and at this point i've loved enough of her books and other work that i may not be critical enough anymore. but most everything else feels so lacklustre in comparison that, like joan sneaking off to be with the royal porcupine, i can't care if it's wrong.
joan foster's narrative reads as far more than a portrait of the 'authoress' as a young lady, or oracle, or both. her thoughts and decisions are, oh forgive me, relatable -- , but her skin is also too real and imperfect for me to simply slip into, like the bella swan-girls she invents for her costume gothics. the theme of writing- or reading-as-escape is more inventively handled than i find it usually is; here the escape through creation is both figurative and literal. joan is both shadows and substance, and i am grateful that it's not just me. and does she get the happy ending that she repeatedly tells us she longs for? it's hard to say. ...more
This is a friend's favourite Xmas book, so I wish I could have gotten into it more. For what it is (i.e. only meant to be goofy and fun) it's well wriThis is a friend's favourite Xmas book, so I wish I could have gotten into it more. For what it is (i.e. only meant to be goofy and fun) it's well written, but honestly I didn't find it terribly funny. Too much story, not enough funny. Is that a valid criticism? Not really, I suppose .......more