Bargainin' for Salvation: Bob Dylan, a Zen Master? Paperback – 1 Jul 2009
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Genuinely enlightening. --Times Higher Education Supplement, 29th July, 2010
About the Author
Steven Heine is professor of religious studies and history and director of the Institute for Asian Studies at Florida International University. Heine's research specializes in the life and thought of Zen master Dogen (1200-1253), the founder of the Soto sect in Japan, and he has published twenty books and dozens of articles on Japanese culture. His publications include Did Dogen Go to China? (Oxford, 2006), The Zen Poetry of Dogen (Tuttle, 1997), Dogen and the Koan Tradition (SUNY, 1993), Shifting Shape, Shaping Text (Hawaii, 2000), and White Collar Zen (Oxford, 2005), which has been reviewed in USA Today, The Washington Post, Harvard Business Working Knowledge, and elsewhere.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
However, I am at once satisfied with the concept and disappointed with the execution. First of all, the book is filled with mistakes. I really do not believe the book was edited for either grammar and spelling or verity of information. For example, in the last paragraph of page 124, the author quotes a line from "Gates of Eden," and attributes it to "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)."
Second, Heine has a way of stringing together bits of lyric or song titles in an attempt to make a point which only comes off as confusing and nonsensical.
That being said, the concept of the book is very interesting and he does make insightful analyses of many songs, although in regard to some works, it seems he is way off the mark. I don't like to criticize anyone's conception of what any work of art means to them because the meaning of any decent work is in the perception of the observer. But in some cases, it seems he hasn't even read the entire work.
The most interesting part of the book is the breakdown of "Dylan Discology in Relation to Career Periods," which makes sense and provides a believable explanation for many questions about the wide-ranging positions reflected in Dylan's work. The identification of the last several years as Dylan having found the Middle Path is an intriguing concept of his latest work. But, if we know anything, it's that Dylan's music will eventually take another direction. So, where to from the Middle Path?
All in all, it is a good way to pass time, but I don't think I'll be picking it up a second time.
A better title would be: BOB DYLAN: A BUDDHIST INTERPRETATION.
That said, this is a marvelous rendering of Bob Dylan's music and meaning in a scholarly and well-written book. It includes abundant annotations, a complete bibliography, and a useful glossary of Buddhist mystical terms.
In response to another reviewer who loved the book but commented on the subtitle, it should be noted that this ends with a question mark. The author is not dogmatically asserting that Dylan is related to Zen, but in an inventive Zen-like way he uses the Buddhist approach to comprehensively examine Dylan's life work. It is also great that the author does not dismiss but instead fully engages other religious influences on Dylan, as well as the role of the Blues and the Beats which he ingeniously compares with Eastern culture. Another intriguing thing about the book is the way it shows how Dylan has woven Asian imagery about karma, nothingness, and illusion into his songs, especially in the 1970s before his fundamentalist phase.
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