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Practicing Zen Without a Licence
by Jack Butler
A grand and funny satire on the human tendency to indulge in
Like zen, whatever you expect Practicing Zen to be, it will be
different. Think of a source-book on the origins of zen, like the scholarly
source-books that we use today to study zen's origins in Chinese Buddhism and
its coming to full flower in Japan. Such source-books are necessarily
fragmentary, since much of the original writing has been lost. Now translate
that source-book to the 25th century, and replace the fragments from China and
Japan with fragments from the late 20th and early 21st centuries, the only
remaining records of how a version of zen (called Easy) took over the U. S.
Throw in a wildly humorous and semi-science-fictional version of history, and
spice it up with anecdotes about and utterances by fictional zen masters, who
quarreled among themselves.
The result is at once hilarious, serious,
satirical, illuminating, and elusive but fundamental in a way that is similar to
Jack Butler is a poet, novelist and essayist. His novel Living in
Little Rock with Miss Little Rock was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize His poems
have been published in The New Yorker, Atlantic, and New York Times Book Review.
Other novels include Jujitsu For Christ and Nightshade (a vampire-on-Mars tale).
Hawk Gumbo and Other Stories is his first story collection. His poetry books are
The Kid Who Wanted to be a Spaceman and West of Hollywood, and he's published a
cookbook called Jack's Skillet.
We invite you to read this interview with