A warm and disarming new approach to embracing Zen in the real world.

BUDDHA IS A GREETER AT WALMART

USING ZEN IN EVERYDAY LIFE

A guide to Buddha and Zen emphasizes accessibility above all.

The latest offering from Neely (Life Between the Tigers, 2013) is as unconventional a Zen Buddhism manual as readers are ever likely to encounter. It’s a koan-heavy collection of lessons, in-jokes, and irreverent asides (“Sacred cows make the best hamburger” appears before the book proper has even started) designed to demystify the history, worldview, and practice of Zen. “There is no plan, no model, no script, no program, no guide, no entry or cheat sheet to reality,” Neely writes, which describes a tumultuous, multifarious world. The Buddhist outlook that he goes on to examine is clearly meant to help smooth that chaos. One key factor that the author discusses is familiar from the countless meditation books currently on the market: stress. Neely uses many different stories to illustrate the harm and futility of anxiety; he mentions, for instance, the perpetual activity of bees. “Do you think they are spending ANY time wondering about what is going to happen next week, what happened last week, or even what is going to happen two seconds from now?” he asks. “No—nor should you.” The method he advocates for undoing this strain is the kind of easy, pointed concentration that will be familiar to devotees of Zen: “Focus is an amazingly powerful tool, yet most of us barely learn to harness it in our lives….Focus can be learned, strengthened, and even taught through mindfulness studies and through meditation.” The net effect of his patient, often humorous simplifications and explanations is to turn a detailed catechism into a smile-inducing devotional. And, as the book’s title suggests, Buddha is at the heart of the transformation. Neely’s Buddha is the kind of Everyperson who can be found not only working at Walmart, but also in every shape and position in life. “He’s…female,” Neely asserts. “Gay. Black. Asian, Caucasian. Named ‘Bubba.’ Drives an eighteen-wheeler. Has gotten a ticket for speeding. Is seven feet tall. Is three years old. Has warts. Eats garlic.” This all-purpose approach serves to bring Buddhism out of its remote temples and plant it squarely in the world most readers know—the grocery store, the highway, and, in a striking example, the movie theater, where the peace of Zen, Neely argues, is available even amid the popcorn and Diet Coke. The author’s reductions of the complexities of Zen Buddhism will no doubt puzzle or irritate many longtime practitioners of the discipline, and some of that exasperation will be justified: occasionally the jokes in these pages seem merely flippant instead of productively irreverent. But the underlying message—that everybody can find enlightenment—shines through and makes the book genuinely intriguing. Ultimately, the author’s many hypotheticals work really well to bring his lessons home to readers.

A warm and disarming new approach to embracing Zen in the real world.

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9889048-0-4

Page Count: 220

Publisher: Zen Books Worldwide

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2017

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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