Three works on big questions from the novelist’s bookshelf.
In Bonnie Nadzam’s debut novel, Lamb, winner of the 2011 Center for Fiction’s Flaherty Dunnan First Novel Prize, a middle-aged man grieving after the death of his father forms an unlikely bond with an 11-year-old girl. But far from a prurient cringe-fest in the vein of To Catch a Predator, Nadzam’s novel is a nuanced portrait of a serial dissembler unraveling. Our reviewer, Veronique de Turenne, celebrates “the gorgeous and grotesque in Nadzam’s unsettling vision.” Read the full review here. This week, the author points us to a trio of favorites.
By Hongzhi Zhengjue, translated by Taigen Dan Leighton and Yi Wu
“This is a work of fragments/illuminations by twelfth-century Chinese monk Hongzi Zhengjue, spiritual predecessor of the perhaps better-known Eihei Dogen. It is gentle and strange and life-changing — a real treasure. While strictly speaking this is an articulation of the ‘silent illumnation’ of Zen practice, it is likewise an articulation of spirituality, of poetry, of philosphy, of being.”
By Herman Hesse
“Some of Hesse’s earliest work, this is the fictional story of Hans Giebernath who realizes too late (though truly he has always known) that serious scholarship and pursuing a life of the mind are not enough to learn how to be a human being. Along with Hans, the reader gets a sense of what are not only other possibilities, but also other requirements in learning to be fully human.”
By Jack Turner
“Jack Turner, a former philosophy professor, asks important questions about wildness/the wild: What is it? What is it not? How have some contemporary efforts to wed us to ‘wilderness’ divorced us even further from it? Conservation, restoration, and preservation may themselves be to blame. His meditations on what we lose when ‘wildness’ becomes an abstract concept (and he argues it has) suggest the stakes are high.”