July Book Reviews

Reviews by Len Oppenheim

There is only one word to describe spring and early summer here in Iowa this year, “Wet”. Wet weather is not good for the golf game or for picnics, but it does provide a good excuse to spend more time reading. Thanks to Tony I read two excellent novels which I would like to highly recommend to readers of all tastes.

The first, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz is exceptionally well-written. Diaz takes us into two venues about which I, and I would guess most of you, know almost nothing. One is in upper Manhattan, and the other is on an Island in the Caribbean.
Oscar Wao is a young man of Dominican ancestry living in Washington Heights, in upper Manhattan. (For you baseball fans, this is the home turf of Manny Ramirez.) Oscar is not your typical hero of a novel. If anything he is a sad specimen of a human being. Nevertheless, I found myself very intrigued with Oscar, his sister, his mother, and the narrator, another Domincan/American, obviously having much in common with the author.

I couldn’t even begin to describe the plot of this novel. It is not the plot which makes it so exceptional. It is the insights into the characters and their cultures that make this book so fascinating. The author is an immense talent and he is uniquely creative in his approach to telling this story and weaving together the elements of life of Dominican’s in America, back on their Island today, and the history going back to the Trujillo regime.

The historical references were fascinating and eye-opening. I found reading this book to be a real treat. It unlocked many secrets and treasures about people and cultures about which I had no insight. Most importantly it was fun to read. I am looking forward to reading other works from this author.

The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga is another “must read”. This is a first novel by a 33 year old author from Madras, India who graduated from an Ivy League College in 1997. The author is the second youngest author to win the “Man Booker Prize” in the forty years it has been offered. The prize is awarded for fiction in the British Empire. The judges praised Adiga for presenting “the dark side of India”.

The hero of this book, the narrator, Balram, is a true anti-hero. Balram grew up in a very poor Indian village. How he moves up in the world and then is seduced by the wonders of the big city (Delhi) is a simplistic outline of the plot. In fact Balram is a very sophisticated narrator and his views of Indian Society and the relationships among the people of their own class and between the classes is often rather shocking.

I would describe the narrative style as very “tongue in cheek”. Everything about the novel is very clever and the descriptions are often hilarious. Clearly this novel could only have been written by one who was raised in India and then schooled in the US. There is a lot of “East meets West”, and much culture shock in this narrative.

You don’t have to know anything about India, its customs, or its people to enjoy this novel. The author does a wonderful job of seducing the reader with the unique approach of the narration, and then fulfilling the reader’s desires as the novel progresses. This is a book that is simply lots of fun to read.

Again, I give Kudos to Tony for discovering this novel and recommending it to me. I hope many of you will enjoy it and feel the same way.

For those who consider themselves spiritual seekers I am thrilled and excited to recommend Enlightenment is Not What you Think, by Wayne Liquorman. Liquorman has been recognized as a sage by his guru, Ramesh Balsekar. Balsekar, in turn was passed the baton by Sri Nisargadatta. These three are considered by many to be the best modern-day exponents of the Advaita philosophy. Advaita literally translates as “not two”. Liquorman does a wonderful job of explaining why this translation is so much more descriptive and meaningful then the commonly used “non-dual”.

I have had the privilege of spending time with Ramesh in India and with Wayne here in the good old USA. I have found their writings and their oral teachings to be exceptional, in a class by themselves when it comes to helping me to be pointed in a direction to grasp what they sometimes call “The Ultimate Understanding”. I am super enthusiastic about this book and rank it right up there among the best books I have ever read about the nature of “spiritual seeking” and the myths that have grown up in the seeking community.

Here, in Wayne’s own words is the essence of the unique approach of this book:

“I am very pleased to have my new book, Enlightenment Is Not What You Think, coming out this month. If it is at all successful in dispelling some of the myths about Enlightenment, I will be gratified. In the Living Teaching it is recognized that seeking Truth is infinitely more valuable than finding it. The search is alive and vibrant. Once you think you have found it, the resulting knowledge is dead. Knowledge is acquired. Truth is revealed. The nature of this revelation is an absence rather than a thing that is to be gained. Of course, it is impossible to describe an absence…we can only describe something that has properties. The impossibility of the task of describing Enlightenment, combined with the insatiable thirst on the part of the seeker to know what it is, has produced an incredible array of pointers.

The inevitable fate of such pointers is that people hear them as descriptions and then take them to be Truths in and of themselves.”

This book is so full of wisdom that I find I can only read about 4 or 5 pages at a sitting. I love this book like I love desert. It is powerful, and explodes in my consciousness the way a great desert explodes my taste buds. It is so much fun to read and so stimulating it is almost obscene in its power and effect.

I could really go overboard in recommending this book. I really hope everyone will read it. If each of you enjoys it ½ as much as I did you will be thrilled to have read it.

Happy reading, hopes for a summer that provides us better weather!

Reviews by Tony Kainauskus

Few novels have touched my heart so much as Animal’s People by Indra Sinha
Loosely based on the Bhopal Industrial accident in India… this is the story of Animal… told in his own words.

Animal was an infant when a chemical accident destroyed the lives of many (physically and psychologically). The toxins in the air deformed him and twisted his spine. For the rest of his life he was doomed to walk on both arms. His parents both died in the accident and Animal was raised by a French Catholic nun (an eccentric character who is expecting the biblical apocalypse to arrive at any time).

The main character wears the name Animal as a proud badge. He is an incredible personality filled with street smarts and a highly sophisticated sense of humor. No self indulgent self pity for this one. Animal always seems to be in constant struggle with his deep romantic love for one of the main characters and his general insatiable lust… thus the shadow subplot of his life long battle between his animal nature and his angelic side.

The story deals with the town’s people fighting the company to try to right the wrongs of that terrible night. For 20 long years they have tried to get help, medical and otherwise, from the company that long ago abandoned this town and its inhabitants. The company has been washing its hands of any guilt. It is also a story of the Indian politicians who fill their pockets with bribes to look the other way. Saints and sinners fill this wonderful book… and at times we are not sure who the saint is and who is the sinner.

The novel is filled with romance, suspense, court room drama and hard edge humor (the last 100 pages are page turners.) but the main reason I fell in love with this book was the spiritual truths that fill its pages and make it rise to a level only few novels can aspire to.

I was emotionally bonded to this book from the first paragraph.
I would honestly say this is the best novel I have read in many years (surpassing even The Kite Runner).

If novels are your passion… then passion will be your reward when you open this one up.

Art at its highest.

One final note…
Please do not let the seemingly depressing background of the story discourage you from reading it.

The novel is ultimately very life affirming…

The book will leave you with your heart uplifted for days… long after you have read the final paragraph.

The latest book by former Purusha member Robert Cox has just been published.
The Final Event provides major new insight into the timing and significance of the momentous events beginning now to unfold on planet earth at this most crucial period of human history. Based upon his own intuitive cognitions, the author ties together prophetic indicators derived from the Vedic, Egyptian, Christian, Greek, Judaic, and Mayan traditions. Robert predicts that the 42-month transition period, (that began June 2009) which marks the time of Tribulation, will end on December 21, 2012, when the light of the new Golden Age will first be seen.”

Sometimes I find myself praying to a deity (sitting cross legged on a cloud somewhere) to help me not to judge.

To judge the person next to me as lower or higher is a disservice both to me and the person being judged.

The person with shabby clothes and belongings in a Hefty garbage bag may be observing the world outside the dream state while I judge him/her within my dream sleep.

But yet at times… unconsciously I do judge and I need to surrender to that fact in order to break its hold on me…

The great sage Sri Ramana Maharshi writes in his book of verses: Truth Revealed (Sad-Vidya)

“Association with Sages leads one to Liberation. Such association should therefore be cherished.”

“The mere darshan of the Sage removes all affliction and evil.”

“For the benign glance the Sage bestows makes one at once pure.”

The sage maybe found in caves, mountains or faraway exotic jungles.
But the sage may also be found walking a city street with all their belongings in a garbage bag.