Several months ago I was asked to write a review of Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists by Kay Larson. I just got the book last week, and started reading it. Since I haven't been blogging much lately, I thought I would do a "live blog reading" of the book, posting my impressions with each chapter, instead of waiting until I was done to give an overall review. The book is in fifteen chapters, plus a prelude, epilogue, and the Maha Prajna Paramita Heart Sutra.
The prelude introduces the three main characters in the book: John Cage, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, and the author herself. The description of Suzuki is intriguing, telling that he was not a Zen master, though still considered an expert on Zen. He was not formally educated, but clearly a master of languages, having taught himself Sanskrit, Tibetan Sanskrit, and Pali, and fluent in Japanese, English, classical Chinese, and "several European languages." It certainly makes me want to learn more about him. The introduction of John Cage did not teach me anything new, and did not do much to evoke the avant-garde sense of wonder that I associate with his works. 4'33" is naturally given the main stage, but just a taste is given. Perhaps the book will delve more deeply later, giving only a teasing taste in this Prelude. The author describes her own path to Buddhism, and explains the structure of the book. Grouped in three sections, the chapters are meant to follow a Buddhist arc of revelation. And within the chapters, quotes from Cage are used to create a sense of conversation with the author. This could work, or be very annoying as a conceit. I shall see.