Beth Marriot, a troubled youth, struggles mightily to find a reasonable facsimile of equanimity on a Buddhist retreat.
“At one point Zöe leaned across to me, grinning, and whispered, ‘Whore!’ I was in paradise.” Beth is a piece of work. Lead singer of the band Pocus, she's in love, in trouble, loves the troubles of love, troubles her lovers, cheats and loves her faithless lovers. Recovering from a catastrophe—she was impulsive, the consequences were serious— she has retreated to the Dasgupta Institute, where sex and other pleasures are forbidden. Beth came as a mediator and stayed as a server, allegedly serving the corps of meditators selflessly, as they endure 10 days, silent, segregated by gender, apart from society and its attractions. Writing is forbidden at the Institute, but Beth, our hyperbolic narrator who wants to be enlightened, can’t help reliving the slow-speed crash that was her life, in all its gory, glorious detail. She strays into the men’s dorm, where she finds and begins reading the journal of GH. He cannot obey the rules either: The details of his failures, his egoism, his skepticism blaze from the pages of his forbidden journal. Parks succeeds in introducing a reason for the narrator to narrate but retreats from Beth’s journal writing into the recesses of her mind. As Beth meditates, as she struggles with her own suffering, struggles not to take pleasure in feeling pleasure or pain, Parks (Teach Us to Sit Still, 2011, etc.) gives us a glimpse of the titanic struggle of meditation, of the mind’s fluctuations under restraint, observing itself. The writing is vivid. Beth’s voice is chatty, seductive, abusive, remorseful. The voice of GH is distinct, by turns angry and astute.
Assured. Accomplished. Memorable.