Matthiessen's prose is clear and his story compelling. His Zen journals, from 1969 to 1982, tell the story of his Zen journey, without any of what the author might describe as, the breathless prose of the sincere seeker, but with great humility, depth, simplicity and beauty. Whether you like biograpy, travel books, or are interested in Zen or Buddhism, do yourself a favour and buy this book.
I read this book four years ago on the path back to zen after 16 years away from serious practice. Three facets of this jewel of a book stand out in memory. Firstly, Matthiesson's story of his wife's illness and death was truly affecting. At the same time, his own openings and softenings in zen practice were a call to me from something very deep. You could call it a three-hanky beginning to the reading of Mathiesson's tale of zen, zen journeys and the world he sees around him. Secondly, the birds are everywhere. PM's observation and description of those creatures which punctuate our lives with their song and flight sharpened my looking and hearing at the time and still do. Thirdly, the journal of the Japanese pilgrimage and stories of his Japanese roshi were full of flavour and feeling. Many thanks to Mr. Mathiesson for this book. Read it if you love zen, birds, Japan, a true true story.
I can't believe that I found only one other review of such a unique, inspirational book as this. I first travelled to Nepal on the strength of The Snow Leopard. This book places the aforementioned in context and gives an eye-opener to what zen practice really involves. Peter Mathiessen manages to relate the tragedy of his wife's death with a piquancy that I've rarely read elsewhere. His journey thereafter towards zen is compelling. I doubt whether Mathiessen really rates among the greatest writers (but then who alive does?) but this is a great story. If you have an interest in life, then this is for you.