Evening Mind


“There’s no other place around here like this, so–this must be the place. ”  Card at Durham’s Ivy Room Restaurant, circa 1966

I’m not especially interested in relating the details of my daily life, so I’m not interested in a conventional blog.  But I am interested in writing about books, and about some of the movies I see, and about writing and literature in general. I have a habit of writing, but no wish to show all of it—even most of it—to the world. What I’ll publish here is pieces that have a shape, because that’s what I like in other websites.  I don’t want to hear from people everyday, just when they have something to say.

I do love to hear about good books to read, and movies to see. That’s what I’ll mostly write about.

He Showed Up posted on 08-09-2017

Levi G. 1953-2017 I won’t say that Levi was my best friend in the world—I have many wonderful friends—but he was the friend with whom I most resonated.  When I was in Asheville we met every week for a couple hours, having breakfast and drinkingRead More

Living Deliberately posted on 08-03-2017

Henry David Thoreau: A Life by Laura Dassow Walls.  University of Chicago Press.  615 pp.  .00. This is one of the best biographies I’ve ever read.  Right at the moment I can’t think of a better one.  And it comes at an ideal moment forRead More

Notes on a Remark by Elmore Leonard posted on 07-27-2017

How He Gave Up Booze and Learned to Relax “By then I was in AA and perhaps not taking myself so seriously.  I do think my writing began to improve at this time, mainly because I wasn’t taking the writing so seriously, either.  I learned to relaxRead More

Lives of Crime posted on 07-26-2017

Elmore Leonard: Four Novels of the 1970’s.  Unknown Man No. 89, The Switch.  Library of America.  809 pp.  .50. I’ve begun to decide—as I read one Elmore Leonard novel after another (that’s one of the advantages of the Library of America; youRead More

The Coma Was a Come-on posted on 07-24-2017

The Big Sick a film by Michael Showalter.  With Kumail Nanjiani, Zoe Kazan, Holly Hunter, Ray Romano.  *****  The Big Sick is so much the best movie I’ve seen this summer (I was happy just to find a movie I wanted to see), so unique as a romanticRead More

Only God Is Good posted on 07-21-2017

A Buddhist Reads the Bible (And Can’t Stop Thinking About It) Ever since I read the story in the Gospel of Mark about the man that Jesus loved—the wealthy man who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life—I have puzzled over Jesus’ statement, “Why do Read More

Going Dutch posted on 07-13-2017

Fifty-Two Pickup, Swag from Four Novels of the 1970’s by Elmore Leonard.  Library of America.  808 pp.  .50 Elmore Leonard wrote great—I would almost say groundbreaking—dialogue, but the rest of his writing was ordinary, even pedestrian.  Let’sRead More

And Gets Back Up Again posted on 07-12-2017

Empire Falls by Richard Russo.  Vintage.  483 pp. .95. **** Richard Russo has done it again, written a book where I was full of a kind of mild admiration through the first half, seeing how he had set up an interesting situation, sketched in some Read More

Waking Up posted on 07-07-2017

The Thing We Do Every Day.  Not the Other Kind Though I think of zazen as the foundation of my life, and often think and read about it, I sometimes don’t want to do it when I wake up first thing in the morning.  I feel slightly afraid.  In thatRead More

Man’s Search for Meaning posted on 07-05-2017

While Life Goes On All Around When spiritual pilgrims went to visit the great Indian saint Vimala Thakar and unexpectedly got to see her, they asked her the purpose of life.  “To live,” she said. A Zen Master couldn’t have said itRead More

Serve Lots of Wine posted on 06-29-2017

Beatriz at Dinner a film by Miguel Arteta.  With Salma Hayak, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Chloe Sevigny.  ***1/2 “Why have an ending that negates everything that happened in the whole movie?” my wife said to me as we left Beatriz at Dinner?  I’dRead More

He Cared Too Much posted on 06-28-2017

Stories by John O’Hara.  The Library of America.  860 pp.  .00 John O’Hara was an Irish Catholic and doctor’s son from Eastern Pennsylvania who believed—apparently for much of his life—that he would have been a happy man if he had just gone toRead More

Overwhelmed posted on 06-23-2017

The Happiness that Takes Some Time to Ripen We had sat down for the reception at my niece’s wedding—tables of eight arranged all around the room—when I realized how my brother had seated us.  It was the three living siblings from myRead More

The Wonder of Women posted on 06-15-2017

Wonder Woman a film by Patty Jenkins.  With Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Robin Wright ***1/2 Arrival a film by Denis Villeneuve.  With Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker ***** A Quiet Passion a film by Terence Davies.  With Cynthia Nixon,Read More

Academic Hack posted on 06-01-2017

Straight Man by Richard Russo.  Vintage Contemporaries.  391 pp. .00. **** I read this book because of Jennifer Senior’s review of Richard Russo’s latest book, in which she called Straight Man a better academic novel than David Lodge’s CampusRead More

Why Can’t We Live in Paradise? posted on 05-29-2017

Reflections on the Words of a Homeless Man At the homeless shelter where I volunteer, I was interviewing a man who was being admitted, and was following the prompts of a questionnaire. “Do you have any disabilities?” I said. “No.  NoRead More

The Dharma of F.M. Alexander posted on 05-26-2017

The Alexander Technique: A Skill for Life by Pedro de Alcantara.  The Crowood Press.  128 pp. I have never thought of the teachings of Buddhism and Taoism as the esoteric observations of a few ancient teachers.  I think of them as the truth aboutRead More

Same Thing Again for the First Time posted on 05-12-2017

A Few Words About Sesshin I wrote some time ago about my dread of an upcoming Rohatsu Sesshin, and my subsequent reaction to it.  I had no such feeling about our spring sesshin; this was probably the first time I hadn’t felt dread before a retreatRead More

Pip Pip Hooray! posted on 05-05-2017

Purity by Jonathan Franzen.  Picador.  598 pp.  .00. ***** I had an odd and unique experience reading Purity.  I got slightly bogged down in the book’s first section, which focuses on the title character; her name is Purity but she goes by Pip.  Read More

Alcoholics Preposterous posted on 05-02-2017

Colossal a film by Nacho Vigalondo.  With Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell.  *??? There’s a mind state called suspension of disbelief, where we overlook an unlikely aspect of a work of art because it is a premise of what we’reRead More