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Buddhadharma : Fall 2009
77 fall 2 00 9 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly for instance, Johnson imagines King, in 1954, raiding the icebox for a midnight snack before working on what would become one of his most famous sermons. And, lo!, he discovers the whole universe inside his refrigerator. Storhoff uncovers the more serious subtexts beneath this humorously treated revelation, and its deeply profound implications. Johnson’s own fourteen-page afterword, also well worth the read, testifies to the ample range and plainspoken depth of his insight, and his graceful, freely associa- tive, nuanced but incisive style. The authors of these critical essays may keep office hours in English depart- ments, but the scope of an English major has changed quite a bit since I was a lad. It now spans a Swiss Army knife of multiple disciplines: cultural studies, critical theory, comparative literature, literary translation studies, post colo- nialism, etc. Be prepared for challeng- ing yet rewarding reading, expanding the horizons of the Humanities (what it means to be human) as well as American Buddhism. The pages of Emergence contain but a handful of leaves from a vast conti- nent, yet together they reflect the viable field of criticism emerging alongside Buddhist American literature. As literary critics help to open our eyes and minds and hearts, we may come to see them as a vital part of the dharma too. In so doing, we acknowledge what our best critics always do, in any field—assist us in renewing and sharpening our vision, so that we may learn to cultivate for ourselves the art of discernment, also known as deep seeing. As further cause for celebration, this title is the first of a new series on Buddhism and American culture from SUNY Press. Judging from this initial entry, we can look forward to further illumination along the trail. And if you happen to see a big blue ox named Babe, you might ask him if Paul Bunyan has considered trying Manjushri’s nondual sword of awakened wisdom in place of his axe. Emergence doesn’t favor any one approach. Some contributions are sharply focused topics, such as Jane Falk’s study of Zen in the poetry of Philip Whalen; Jane Augustine’s essay on Vajrayana in the poetry of Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman; and Marcus Boon’s discus- sion of the transgressive poetry of John Giorno. Hanh Nguyen and R.C. Lutz, on the other hand, collaborate to unlock multiple dimensions of karma layered in Lan Cao’s under-recognized novel, Mon- key Bridge. Other pieces are free-form. Poet Michael Heller, for example, surveys Vajrayana, phenomenology, and the Objectivist poets as mutual influences on his own poetry. He maintains that awakening can occur equally through poetry or meditation—and without need of credentials. Maxine Hong Kingston and Charles Johnson also speak experientially about their own work. In addition to the insights in her pithy foreword, Kingston is revealing in a 2004 interview with edi- tor Whalen-Bridge, in which she speaks publicly for the first time about her Bud- dhist influences. Whalen-Bridge hails her first book, The Woman Warrior (1976), as “one of the four or five most influ- ential books in postwar American writ- ing. In a creative, genre-bending form, it achieves three kinds of liberation at once: women’s liberation, Asian-Amer- ican imaginative empowerment, and the insistence that personal utterance has a rightful place in the open world.” This reviewer would add that her two most recent works remain largely under- appreciated: The Fifth Book of Peace (which took her fifteen years to write), and her subsequent anthology, Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace. The editors are no less laudatory about Charles Johnson, praising him as “the leading spokesperson for Buddhism and literature in America today.” In sup- port of this, Gary Storhoff offers close readings of the many meditation reso- nances in Johnson’s Dr. King’s Refriger- ator and Other Stories. In the title story, Reviews A Peaceful Refuge a inthe b Heart of New York City New York Insight offers evening talks and sittings, workshops, courses, and daylong retreats for the integration of meditation teach- ings in daily life. 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