Best known as a leader of the Sanctuary Movement for Central American refugees, Corbett is a former cowboy, goatherd, and librarian. This complicated, dense book develops his philosophy of ``goatwalking,'' a way to live ``cocreatively rather than possessively.'' With references to his conversion to Quakerism and a reliance on a convoluted logic dependent upon the concepts of civil disobedience, ``sabbatical communion,'' ``covenanting,'' errantry, and biblical passages on ``cimarron'' communities along with the basic tenets of Taoism and Buddhism, goatwalking would seem to encompass thinkers from Ayn Rand to Edward Abbey, from Henry Thoreau to Carl Schmitt. In any case, Corbett is frankly brilliant in the sections on goat husbandry and survival in the wilds. He offers tips on nomadic goatherding: how to supplement a goat-milk diet with plants and insects; how to milk a goat and how to housebreak one to sleep in a tent; how to avoid poisons (including bat urine) and find medicines out on the range; and how to prepare goat milk, yogurt, and cheese. His transitions are so weak, however, that his philosophical discourse never seems to connect, alternating between the unfathomable—``the assumption that meaning must be centered on the self-conscious self dies harder than its geocentric analogue''—and the curious: ``...the Sermon on the Mount is worse than foolish...we must serve Mammon rather than the God proclaimed by Jesus.'' Difficult to follow and often contradictory, but the practical sections would make a great handbook for nomads.

Pub Date: June 1, 1991

ISBN: 0-670-82846-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1991



This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955


A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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