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Lions Roar : November 2013
THE STRUGGLERS By Norman Fischer Singing Horse Press 2013; 116 pp., $15 (paper) IN THAILAND IT IS NIGHT By Ira Sukrungruang University of Tampa Press 2013; 78 pp., $14 (paper) SCATTERED MEMORIES By Thich Giac Thanh Parallax Press 2013; 144 pp., $14.95 (paper) The Strugglers and In Thailand It Is Night are two noteworthy poetry volumes by Shambhala Sun authors. In his poems, Zen priest Norman Fischer rarely touches Buddhism head-on, but between the lines Buddhist sensibilities shine through. I particularly enjoy his lyrical cracks at consumerism. He draws our attention to the “hopeful purchasing mood” of shoppers “who sip syrup-laced coffee at Starbuck’s.” He takes us to Bed, Bath, and Beyond, and “further still—this once green valley/Paved now with glitter in the shadow of its mountain/For the Seasonal Sales.” Using clear language that packs a pow- erful punch, Ira Sukrungruang is par- ticularly gifted at using his poems to tell a story. He begins In Thailand It Is Night with a section called “Guruda,” a bird creature of Buddhist mythology. “Start with meditating hands because the hands hold/suffering,” he writes in the poem “Drawing Buddhas.” “Be sure to curve the fingers/and palms, and be sure the curve cups karma,/or a splashing sparrow, or a sleeping cat.” Another new book of poetry, Scat- tered Memories, is by Thich Giac Thanh, the late Vietnamese monk who served as the first abbot of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Deer Park Monastery in California. He wrote his poems over a thirty-year period, many of them when he was in dire straits, such as preparing to escape his homeland by boat. Nonetheless, there is a thread of joy that runs through his work—an appreciation for every- thing from sunshine to plum blossoms to drifting mist. CLAIRE DEWITT AND THE BOHEMIAN HIGHWAY By Sara Gran Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 2013; 280 pp., $20 (cloth) Private investigator Claire Dewitt is the type of person who rifles through acquaintances’ medicine cabinets and steals whatever numbing prescription pills she happens to find. She also likes fat lines of coke and casual sex—or maybe it’s not so much that she likes these things as much as they help her keep a lid on her troubling emotions. Beyond being haunted by memories of killing two men and having her best friend myste- riously disappear, Claire is also way too involved in her current whodunit: her ex-boyfriend, Paul, was murdered in his home and the suspects are many, includ- ing his gorgeous wife and her punk-rock lover. Spoiler alert: there are a few things that keep this hard-boiled detective novel from having a sad, sordid ending. One is that Claire finds Paul’s killer. Another is that she does a stint at a Buddhist tem- ple. Years ago, her mentor sent her there to study with a lama, but she got caught in the toolshed having sex with a monk- in-training and was kicked out. This time she discovers that the temple is a place of healing. WALK LIKE A BUDDHA Even If Your Boss Sucks, Your Ex Is Torturing You & You’re Hungover Again By Lodro Rinzler Shambhala Publications 2013; 224 pp., $14.95 (paper) “I should mention that I’m sort of a mess and also okay,” Lodro Rinzler writes. “Sometimes I’m sad or angry, and yet I’m also confident that at my core I am a bud- dha.” What this Gen-Y dharma teacher means is that even when he’s confused, he’s inherently awake. Rinzler offers Walk Like a Buddha as a guidebook to develop- ing an unconditional faith in our wake- fulness. It began with a blog called What Would Sid Do?, in which Rinzler explored how Siddhartha might have navigated the modern world, with its speed dating, cli- mate change, designer drugs, and office politics. Walk Like a Buddha retains little of the actual material from the blog, yet it is likewise unflinching in its exploration of Buddhist practice today. Let me put it this way: in the section entitled “Getting It on Like a Buddha,” one of the topics addressed is whether having an open rela- tionship can be in harmony with the Bud- dhist path. ♦ SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2013 78