cover image There Is Never Anything but the Present

There Is Never Anything but the Present

Alan Watts. Pantheon, $20 (128p) ISBN 978-0-59331-602-3

Adorned with simple but pretty illustrations, this compendium of aphorisms drawn from the writings of hippie theologian and Eastern mysticism popularizer Watts (The Way of Zen), who died in 1973, aims to heal, inspire, and release. Readers can dip into any section for one-liners or short paragraph whispers of wisdom, such as “Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command.” Watts muses on the natures of love, life, faith, and belonging, giving readers pause to consider the greater meaning of many thoughts, such as “We do not dance to reach a certain point on the floor, but simply to dance.” Others are more straightforward pronouncements that reflect Watts’s rebellious era but still hit as timely, to wit: “There will be respect for authority when, and only when, authority is itself respectable.” Some selections include drawings, from simple design flourishes to more scratchily etched imagery such as a floating eye, shaggy tree, or a classic serpent eating its tail. Designed as a gift book, it feels like it would fit as much on a bedside as coffee table—and readers may find themselves flipping through pages before wrapping it up. Agent: Jessica Salky, Salky Literary. (Dec.)