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NaaahTen Minutes to RelaxThank You for Being Such a PainThe 10 Best Anxiety BustersThe 5 Reasons Why We OvereatThe 7 Secrets of the ProlificThe Anger WorkbookThe Antidepressant Survival ProgramThe Art of Becoming HumanThe Art of Exceptional LivingThe Beginner's Guide to Healthy EatingThe Better Sex Guide to the Kama SutraThe Betty Ford Center Book of AnswersThe Bipolar Disorder Survival GuideThe Breakout PrincipleThe Bully, the Bullied, and the BystanderThe Chronic Pain SolutionThe Complete Vegetarian HandbookThe Consolations of PhilosophyThe Core Question: Who Am I?The Crowdsourced Performance ReviewThe Emotional Eater's Repair ManualThe Emotional RevolutionThe End-of-Life HandbookThe Essential Guide to Prescription Drugs 2005The Essential KamasutraThe Feeling Good HandbookThe Five Things We Cannot Change ...The Game of TruthThe Gift of FearThe Gift of ShynessThe Good Vibrations Guide to SexThe Guide for International Intercultural Couples and Families Intercultural MarriageThe Happy Hook-UpThe Healing JourneyThe Healing Journey for CouplesThe Healing Journey Through GriefThe Healing Power of PetsThe Identity CodeThe Illustrated Guide to Extended Massive OrgasmThe Inside Story on Teen GirlsThe Introvert AdvantageThe Intuitive WriterThe Irritable Male SyndromeThe Jewel Tree of TibetThe Joy of MeditatingThe Last Self-Help Book You'll Ever NeedThe Light of DiscoveryThe Little Book of Healthy TeasThe Little Yoga BookThe Magic of Thinking BigThe Making of Dr. PhilThe Male Stress Survival GuideThe Money WorkbookThe Mood CureThe Mozart EffectThe Myth of Self-EsteemThe New Cancer SurvivorsThe New Rational TherapyThe OASIS Guide to Asperger SyndromeThe OCD WorkbookThe Passion PlanThe Pilates Workout JournalThe Pill Book Guide to Natural MedicinesThe Places That Scare YouThe Pocket Life CoachThe Porn TrapThe Power of FocusThe Power of Full EngagementThe Power of Negative ThinkingThe Power of PlayThe Power of Self-CoachingThe Pursuit of PerfectThe Quest for Peace, Love, and a 24'' WaistThe Real Rules for GirlsThe Secret of LifeThe Secret Strength of DepressionThe Self ImprovedThe Self-Compassion Skills WorkbookThe Self-Help SourcebookThe Sex Addiction WorkbookThe Spa DeckThe Stoic Art of LivingThe Stress CureThe Stress Less WorkbookThe Stress Owner's ManualThe Stress Reduction Workbook for TeensThe SuperStress SolutionThe Ten Minute Sexual SolutionThe Therapy for the SaneThe Truth About Chronic PainThe Ultimate Guide to Sex and DisabilityThe Van Gogh BluesThe Way of StretchingThe Way of the JournalThe Way of TransitionThe Weblog HandbookThe Why CaféThe Worst-Case Scenario Survival HandbookThere's a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemThings Might Go Terribly, Horribly WrongThink Confident, Be ConfidentThink NakedThink SmartThinking for a ChangeThis Is HowTotal PilatesTrain Your Brain to Get HappyTrain Your Brain to Get RichTransformation Trauma in the Lives of ChildrenUltimate SexUnderstanding the Borderline MotherUndoing DepressionUnhappy TeenagersUnlock the Genius WithinUntangling the WebVirtual AddictionWaking Up to What You DoWay to Be!What We Say MattersWhat Women WantWhat's Happening to My Body? Book for BoysWhat's Holding You Back? When a Family Member Has DementiaWhen a Parent is DepressedWhen in Doubt, Make BeliefWhen Perfect Isn't Good EnoughWhen Someone You Love Is DepressedWhen Things Fall ApartWhen Words Are Not EnoughWhen Your Body Gets the BluesWhen Your Child Has an Eating DisorderWherever You Go, There You AreWhy Can't I Change?Why Is It Always About You?Why Smart Executives FailWorried All the TimeWoulda, Coulda, ShouldaWriting as a Sacred PathWriting in FlowWriting to HealYes, Your Teen Is Crazy!Yoga 4 TeensYoga as MedicineYoga for EveryoneYoga for MeditatorsYoga for OsteoporosisYoga for Pain ReliefYoga for Regular Guys DVDYoga for the Young at HeartYoga on DemandYoga Weight Loss for DummiesYou Are Not AloneYou Are Not Your IllnessYou Can Think Yourself ThinYou'll See It When You Believe ItYour Body Speaks Your MindYour Brain on FoodYour Child, Bully or Victim?Zen Sex
This is no 'how-to' instruction book
for writers. Indeed, it does not
pretend to be it is described as a 'guidebook', which is slightly
misleading. It is one of those dipping
books; a page or two to be read and pondered slowly. Or if Zen Buddhism is not your style, then to be thrown out of
the window as quickly as possible. This
has made it irritating, interesting, obscure and occasionally
enlightening. And also difficult to
The author, Gail Sher, is ordained as
a Zen Buddhist monk, as well as being a psychotherapist and prolific poet.
The only thing to do is to read the
book as a poetic offering, enjoy some of the metaphors and phraseology, and
stop frequently to consider a phrase or idea. If, like me, you are more of a Western analytical bent, then try
not to gnash your teeth at the meandering and foggy style. Stop and listen to the poetry.
Sher often talks about the 'imagining
ear', to which we must all listen to enable the writer to grow. She introduces it thus:
'Turn on your imagining ear and tune
into your ignorant fat fragility. Have
a chat. Talk long into the night'.
The book is divided into sections and
subdivided into short (one or two page) meditations on the section's
theme. The main subject is listening,
as reflected in the section headings:
listening to oneself/the world/to words, then 'process' and finally
'listening is forever; an apotheosis'.
The subsection titles are intriguing
and sometimes maddening.
A maddening example is: 'The Thought
of Hearing Kills Hearing. The Only
Hearing There Is Has Never Not Existed.'
To my pedestrian brain, suffering no doubt from its confining analytical
outlook, this simply comes across as pretentious babble.
However, the book is redeemed by such headings as: 'I call them
Belcher-Squelchers. They go Slug-Toot,
Slug-Toot, Slug-Toot.' To her credit,
Gail Sher often shows a quiet sense of humor.
Other headings include: 'My White and Your White Aren't Necessarily
the Same', The Redwood Floor Returned a Different Rhythm for Each of Our
Footfalls, 'Doodle with Your Ear'.
Only the incurious could fail to read on.
One of her recurring themes is the
importance of silences, or gaps. I'm
reminded of the jazz musician who said the timing between notes was as
important as the notes themselves.
Indeed, Sher herself quotes musician Richard Sennett as saying that
Stravinsky's Violin Concerto is as much about silence as sound.
'Trappists and Benedictines practice
silence. Within a context of silence, a
sound (a word) means something. A
person hearing one will likely pay attention.'
There are many such interesting ideas dotted throughout the book.
Sher makes liberal use of stories and
anecdotes to illustrate her points. For
example, she quotes a story about the young Matisse: 'He [Matisse] .. invented a new colour, and remembered all his
life how crushed he felt when his father pointed out there was no such thing.'
She garners her parables from casual conversations, texts and
religious writings, all of which combine to give a more forceful and meaningful
flavour to her own words.
Her own writing is rich in metaphor,
which often makes it a pleasure to read: 'The imagining ear...is grounded in
the present. It is right here, right
now. While it may feel muddy, dirty,
wet...buried at the bottom is a different kind of pleasure freedom.'
There is a magical, fairy-tale
quality to her writing, so you can occasionally forgive her for apparently not
making any sense while you enjoy the imagery.
As a book to help an aspiring writer,
this is not what I would recommend (although, in fairness, she does toss out an
occasional concrete suggestion for a writing exercise). But by all means have a
copy alongside the sometimes prosaic instruction books, if you are of a poetic
frame of mind (and anyone wishing to write creatively must have some poetry in
them). It is also worth reading for the
stories and odd sparks of ideas. So
not a 'must-have', but try it and see if it is to your taste.
© 2002 Anne Philbrow
Anne Philbrow writes of herself:
I am a self-employed video producer and teach music and
drama on a part-time basis. I have a BA Hons in Philosophy from UCW,
Aberystwyth, UK and have done postgraduate research in Moral and Social
Philosophy, specializing in Animal Rights. In my spare time, I do some
freelance writing (book and theater reviews, articles) and have contributed to
Philosophy in Review. I am a user of mental health services.