cover image Transcendent


Curtis White. Melville House, $17.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-612-19994-8

Novelist White (Living in a World That Can’t Be Fixed) tackles debates within traditional and Western Buddhism in this provocative collection. Taking aim at everything from the secular Buddhism of writer Stephen Batchelor to “corporate dharma,” White promotes art and Eastern Buddhist values as ideal principles to steer society’s success. For White, traditional Buddhism offers a counterculture with potential to free society from “capitalism’s tear-soaked contract” by helping practitioners “withdraw not from the world, but from worldly forms and social fictions.” White turns to such sources as punk music and George Carlin’s caustic comedy to underline the “truth-seeking” mindset that Buddhism advances (“punk, [like] Buddhism, is the expression of a desire to awaken”) and elsewhere draws intriguing parallels between Thelonius Monk’s jazz and the Buddhist concept of wabi sabi, or the “perfectly imperfect.” It amounts to a convincing case that will resonate with progressives seeking to “free ourselves from the [capitalistic] world that we were born into” and “change the way we live.” Scholars of Buddhism will benefit from White’s shrewd takes. (Jan.)