Whole chunks of vituperation against Western science, medicine, and society burst out of Holbrook's typewriter in...


THE STONE MONKEY: An Alternative Chinese-Scientific Reality

Whole chunks of vituperation against Western science, medicine, and society burst out of Holbrook's typewriter in hyphenated, capitalized, adverbially dense prose--for six out of seven chapters. Holbrook, a Yale Ph.D. (now at the Univ. of Prince Edward Island), wrote an academic disseration, he tells us, to fulfull the requirements in anthropology, meantime he burned to write this book, inspired by his researches on Taiwan with a shih-fu, or teaching father. What this book comes down to is Holbrook's vision of Western crisis born of Absolute-Fragmental thinking (for which read the familiar either/ors of idealism/materialism, body/soul, capitalism/Marxism) as opposed to Polar Completeness--for which read the traditional Chinese teaching of the identity of opposites. ""Natural"" becomes Holbrook's all-important adjective, and the Confucian term Jen--which Holbrook translates as Human or Human-ness--becomes the all-important principle that imbues Chinese medicine and science with moral power. Of course Western democracies and Communist states present slow-moving targets for the righteously indignant; but Holbrook's overkill comes close to paranoia. The real aim of sexual liberation, we are told, is to make both men and women debtors, ""economically subservient and impotent,"" and thus to ensure a ""Capitalist elite political domination."" (Marxists, be advised, fare even worse.) Enlightenment, however, appears in chapter seven. Human nature, says Holbrook, is ultimately based on the naturalness of reciprocal parent-child love. All goodness and mercy follow there-from--i.e., the extended family, the clan, and such model democracies as the Abkhasians (of the Caucasus), traditional Chinese society, and contemporary Taiwan. We learn how class distinctions were blurred in traditional China by emperors giving their sons to be raised by scholars and by merchants paying to have their sons raised by scholar-officials. We also learn that Holbrook thinks a national holiday should be named for the woman who shot each of her rapists to death as they ascended the steps of a California courthouse. (It's only natural, Holbrook says.) The book's title derives from a Chinese allegory about a monkey born out of stone who acquires superhuman powers that qualify him as a guardian of precious internationally-transported knowledge. Clearly Holbrook is still in the stone age.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Morrow

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1981