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September 15, 2014
The Blue Cliff Record
by Cleary, Thomas and J.C. Cleary, translators
294.3927 YUA 1992
A monk asked Chao Chou: "'The Ultimate Path has no difficulties--just avoid picking and choosing'--isn't this just another cliché for people of these times?"
Chou said, "Once someone asked me, and I really couldn't explain for five years."
Got that? Any questions? That was the 58th Case from the Blue Cliff Record, a book of 100 Zen kōans. Let's tie up loose knots with the 59th Case:
A monk asked Chao Chou, "'the Ultimate Path has no difficulties--just avoid picking and choosing. As soon as there are words and speech, this is picking and choosing.' So how do you help people, Teacher?"
Chou said, "Why don't you quote this saying in full?" The monk said, "I only remember up to here."
Chou said, "It's just this: This Ultimate Path has no difficulties;just avoid picking and choosing."
A kōan is a "public case," and these cases are meant to knock their readers off their mental rails. When reading one of these very brief cases, if you give it what the author of the Forward calls "a reality reading," you might be joggled from your ordinary means of thinking, into enlightenment. "In this mode, you yourself become the case . . . " This may sound frightening to you, but I've always been a case.
Laughing at the kōans is a permissible response, at least in the East 10th Street School of Zen. In the late 1970's and early 1980's, I was working for the library, and on Sundays (this is probably a sad thing to admit) I would walk from Woodruff Place to Central Library, sometimes in the snow. I would laugh my head off (while keeping it warm), thinking about Chao Chou. It's okay to laugh because you think these cases are nonsensical, but some readers may be laughing because they've been moved to where Chao Chou wanted them to go.
The Notes and Commentaries and Pointers can be helpful, but don't expect them to be rational explanations.
--Recommended by Glenn Halberstadt, Information Technology
September 8, 2014
Slow Getting Up: A Story of NFL Survival from the Bottom of the Pile
by Jackson, Nate
796.332 Jackson JAC
As the football season begins, we often think of some of the legendary players from yesterday and today – Jim Brown, “Mean” Joe Greene, Peyton Manning. However, we seldom think of some of their less-heralded teammates, some of the men who played, or sat on the bench, in relative anonymity. The men who were bruised and battered in practice at the bottoms of piles. The players who made all of the same sacrifices of their time, energy, and bodies that the superstars did, but with none of the glory.
Nate Jackson was one of those players. In his autobiography, Jackson recounts his six seasons in the NFL and takes us with him from small time football at Menlo College to becoming an undrafted rookie with the Denver Broncos to a stint in Germany for NFL Europe and finally through the deterioration of his body and career. On the journey, Jackson doesn’t pull any punches about the realities of his gruesome injuries, the off-the-field perks of being a professional athlete, and the moral dilemmas of using performance enhancing drugs.
While so much of our focus is often spent on the goings-on of the best known athletes in football, it is interesting and refreshing to read a detailed and honest account of the not-so-famous athlete.
Slow Getting Up is also available as a downloadable e-book.
--Recommended by Adam Todd, Spades Park Library
September 1, 2014
by Leonard, Elmore
Elmore Leonard has been one of my favorite authors since I read my first Leonard book, Killshot, in 1991. In this fast paced action story, two brothers, known as drug dealers, decide to get into the “body parts” business, specifically Kidneys. U. S. Marshall Raylan Givens is the man assigned to stop them in their tracks.
The book has a lot of characters and action going on at the same time. Layla, the nurse, removes and collects kidneys for a cool 10 grand. The executive of a Kentucky coal mine will stop at nothing to get what she wants; and Jackie Nevada, a cool-handed cheat and expert poker player, finds herself being tracked by U.S. Marshals.
Even if you’re not an Elmore Leonard fan, you will love this book!
--Recommended by Gregory Hill, Decatur Library
August 25, 2014
The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane
by Howe, Katherine
What do we really know about history? About our country’s history, or our own?
On a harsh winter night in 1681, Deliverance Dane races to the bedside of a dying child, only to face the fear and derision of the townsfolk when her skills as a healer are called into question. The resulting lawsuit changes the course of her family’s history forever.
Connie Goodwin is a modern-day PhD candidate in American Colonial History, desperate to find a topic for her dissertation. Meanwhile, she must spend her summer preparing her grandmother’s run-down ancestral house for sale. The task seems pointless to Connie, until she finds clues that could lead her to historical gold.
Katherine Howe’s novel keeps her audience riveted with the contrast between the grueling life of Colonial Massachusetts and the mystery unfolding in modern day New England. The author’s own background as a historian provides a richness to both settings, letting us walk a mile in both women’s shoes.
— Recommended by Kasey Panighetti, Franklin Road Library
August 18, 2014
I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats
by Marciuliano, Francesco
In a sea of funny pet books, it is easy to overlook this small gem. For cat (and animal) lovers looking for a quick read and a bit of humor, check out this very silly book of cat poetry. In a quick sitting you can chuckle away at these tongue-in-cheek poems written “by cats” about behaviors and quirks that cat owners love and love to hate. Less praising a cat’s beauty, and more understanding why a cat paws at your bedroom door, this collection explores a housecat’s psyche with a sense of humor. Interspersed between delightfully funny poems are adorable pictures of what else…cats! And if you are more of a dog lover, check out the companion volume I Could Chew on This: And Other Poems by Dogs.
--Recommended by Meredith Albertin, Lawrence Library