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LONG QUIET HIGHWAY by Natalie Goldberg


Waking Up in America

by Natalie Goldberg

Pub Date: Feb. 15th, 1993
ISBN: 0-553-07245-5
Publisher: Bantam

Goldberg, author of two popular Zen-inspired writing guides (Wild Mind, 1990; Writing Down the Bones, 1986), tells in simple, dead-honest prose the story of her ``awakening'' to writing and to life. ``Americans,'' Goldberg says, ``see writing as a way to break through their own inertia and become awake, to connect with their deepest selves.'' This way works, she insists, but ``it is hard. It is a long quiet highway.'' Goldberg's highway began on Long Island, where her father ran a bar, her mother went on diets, and the future author had the good fortune to have one Mr. Clemente in high school. One day Mr. Clemente turned off the lights and asked Goldberg and the rest of her class to listen to the rain: ``That one moment carried me a long way into my life.'' After attending George Washington University, Goldberg went to graduate school in New Mexico. There, while teaching an unruly class of Mexican and Native American kids, she felt her heart open—an experience that nothing in her study of literature had prepared her for. She headed for the Lama Foundation, a nonsectarian spiritual center, and then to Boulder, where she studied poetry with Allen Ginsberg and took Buddhist vows. Finally, she married and moved to Minneapolis, where she met Katagiri Roshi, the slight, unpretentious Zen teacher who was to have a defining impact on her life. Katagiri told her that writing could take her as far as Zen could if she made her practice deep enough, and he helped her to see that, for her, the direct, bare-bones way was best. A resonant book that will appeal to, and likely help, all who believe that life can be a spiritual adventure. One gripe: The cadence of Goldberg's writing gets monotonous. Isn't it possible to be ``awake'' and yet experiment with more intricate prose structures?