May lead readers to plenty of better introductions to Zen. You dig?

THE DUDE AND THE ZEN MASTER

A rambling conversation on all things Zen between the mystic-minded movie star and his spiritual teacher.

As the title suggests, this book targets (and might most please) the ardent cult attracted to The Big Lebowski, the movie that gave Bridges (Pictures, 2006) his iconic role. He explains of the book’s genesis, “So…my friend Bernie Glassman says to me one day, ‘Did you know that the Dude in The Big Lebowski is considered by many Buddhists to be a Zen master?’ ” The two proceed to explore one of the movie’s signature lines, “The Dude abides,” from every possible perspective, punctuated by anecdotes from Bridges’ film career and personal life and spiritual sagacity from Glassman (Infinite Circle: Teachings in Zen, 2002, etc.). Perhaps the most revelatory is a close reading of “Row, Row, Row, Your Boat,” where even readers who have heard it thousands of times before will understand “gently,” “merrily” and “life is but a dream” with fresh ears. Some of the rest belabors the obvious, suffers from cliché and hippie vernacular, and even borders on self-parody. When Bridges talks about fan letters, most of which he doesn’t answer and then occasionally feels guilty, Glassman advises, “You need to befriend Jeff. It’s got nothing to do with the letters. You’ve got to befriend the fact that Jeff can only do so much….The Dude does not get angry with himself for all the things he’s not doing. He befriends the self.” Bridges makes it a point to distinguish himself from that role, though sometimes he wishes he could be more like the Dude. He writes things like, “Dig is beyond understand. I like digging where I am and what I’m doing, I like jamming with myself.”

May lead readers to plenty of better introductions to Zen. You dig?

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-16164-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Blue Rider Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2012

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An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

THE BOOK OF GENESIS ILLUSTRATED

The Book of Genesis as imagined by a veteran voice of underground comics.

R. Crumb’s pass at the opening chapters of the Bible isn’t nearly the act of heresy the comic artist’s reputation might suggest. In fact, the creator of Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural is fastidiously respectful. Crumb took pains to preserve every word of Genesis—drawing from numerous source texts, but mainly Robert Alter’s translation, The Five Books of Moses (2004)—and he clearly did his homework on the clothing, shelter and landscapes that surrounded Noah, Abraham and Isaac. This dedication to faithful representation makes the book, as Crumb writes in his introduction, a “straight illustration job, with no intention to ridicule or make visual jokes.” But his efforts are in their own way irreverent, and Crumb feels no particular need to deify even the most divine characters. God Himself is not much taller than Adam and Eve, and instead of omnisciently imparting orders and judgment He stands beside them in Eden, speaking to them directly. Jacob wrestles not with an angel, as is so often depicted in paintings, but with a man who looks not much different from himself. The women are uniformly Crumbian, voluptuous Earth goddesses who are both sexualized and strong-willed. (The endnotes offer a close study of the kinds of power women wielded in Genesis.) The downside of fitting all the text in is that many pages are packed tight with small panels, and too rarely—as with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah—does Crumb expand his lens and treat signature events dramatically. Even the Flood is fairly restrained, though the exodus of the animals from the Ark is beautifully detailed. The author’s respect for Genesis is admirable, but it may leave readers wishing he had taken a few more chances with his interpretation, as when he draws the serpent in the Garden of Eden as a provocative half-man/half-lizard. On the whole, though, the book is largely a tribute to Crumb’s immense talents as a draftsman and stubborn adherence to the script.

An erudite and artful, though frustratingly restrained, look at Old Testament stories.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-393-06102-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2009

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The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

THE LAWS OF HUMAN NATURE

A follow-on to the author’s garbled but popular 48 Laws of Power, promising that readers will learn how to win friends and influence people, to say nothing of outfoxing all those “toxic types” out in the world.

Greene (Mastery, 2012, etc.) begins with a big sell, averring that his book “is designed to immerse you in all aspects of human behavior and illuminate its root causes.” To gauge by this fat compendium, human behavior is mostly rotten, a presumption that fits with the author’s neo-Machiavellian program of self-validation and eventual strategic supremacy. The author works to formula: First, state a “law,” such as “confront your dark side” or “know your limits,” the latter of which seems pale compared to the Delphic oracle’s “nothing in excess.” Next, elaborate on that law with what might seem to be as plain as day: “Losing contact with reality, we make irrational decisions. That is why our success often does not last.” One imagines there might be other reasons for the evanescence of glory, but there you go. Finally, spin out a long tutelary yarn, seemingly the longer the better, to shore up the truism—in this case, the cometary rise and fall of one-time Disney CEO Michael Eisner, with the warning, “his fate could easily be yours, albeit most likely on a smaller scale,” which ranks right up there with the fortuneteller’s “I sense that someone you know has died" in orders of probability. It’s enough to inspire a new law: Beware of those who spend too much time telling you what you already know, even when it’s dressed up in fresh-sounding terms. “Continually mix the visceral with the analytic” is the language of a consultant’s report, more important-sounding than “go with your gut but use your head, too.”

The Stoics did much better with the much shorter Enchiridion.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-42814-5

Page Count: 580

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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