Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Floating Stone: 21 Thoughts of Miyazawa Kenji

Just available on

Kenji Miyazawa, one of the greatest modern Zen poets is now considered, "the poet of the Tsunami recovery" by the Japanese. The color photgraphs of Miyazawa country are as remarkable as the poetry itself. Kenji Okuhira traveled all around capturing the visual homeland of Miyazawa. The result is a lovely walk in time and in the mind of one of the most unusual thinkers of the last one hundred years.

This book was a combined effort over many years. Kenji Okuhira's translations and my selection of same began in 1999 and continued off and on until just a year ago when we decided to finally publish the book.

Mina Yamashita, one of the best designers we have ever known, created the eye-catching page layout. Kenji Okuhira's flawless eye for detail, natural landscapes and, most importantly, the mystical way Miyazawa looked at things make this book an unusual visual experience. The text is in English and Japanese with field notes and comments by Kenji Okuhira.

Look for this book on Amazon, Ingram, Barnes and Noble, and your favorite indie bookstore.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Jan Wiener's Own Story

It has been 44 years since Jan handed me a copy of his newly published book, The Assassination of Heydrich.

In the months before, I had seen him writing in longhand in a school notebook and when I asked him what he was writing, he answered, "My life in Europe during World War 2 and the death of Reinhard Heydrich who was known as Hitler's Hangman." I had to admit I had never heard of Heydrich -- but I read Jan's book on the night he gave it to me. I couldn't put it down. It was chillingly brave, noble, painful, eerie, ironic, and sometimes, sparely poetic, just like Jan himself.

Knowing Jan -- for many of us who lived at The Windsor Mountain School in Lenox, Massachusetts -- was a great honor. Equally great is the honor of working on this reprint and update of his classic book. We did very little to it. Zuzana, Jan's wife, added a timeline.
I added a small memoir.

The story of Jan's escape from the Nazis, his amazing railway adventure getting to Italy, and his subsequent imprisonment there all seem like fiction. That he lived to tell the tale and was a navigator for more than thirty R.A.F. missions over Berlin is yet another spellbinding story, one that I heard little by little, and one night at a time, at a bar in Lenox during the 1970s. "This should be a film," I told him. And so it was, later on.

When I read The Assassination of Heydrich today, I am struck by the insistent, soft cadence of Jan's spoken voice. It's in his every statement. Those who took his Modern European History course know that voice well, and will hear it again in his prose. For me, it brings back one hundred nights at Heritage House on Housatonic St., Lenox, Massachusetts.

Here's to an incredible storyteller and devoted friend. 

Even if you have already done so, I suggest that you read what he wrote again.

We need to hear it now more than ever.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

George the Horse

This horse with no name is a roper's horse, a sweet-tempered show animal used to rodeos and working with calves. He's not built large enough to hold a steer. He crow hops sometimes. He has the roughest, bumpiest trot I've ever encountered, but it quickly slides into the the smoothest lope I've ever felt.

I breathe his warm breath into my lungs, and return it. Circular breathing.

I call him George because Jim does but also because I have a lifelong friend, a parrot named George. And now I have an 80 year old writer friend named George and a literary agent named George, and I am thinking of calling myself George instead of Gerald just to confuse everyone. Just kidding.

It starts raining on our ride in the high timber above Sapello Canyon. George wiggles his muzzle at the drizzle. I watch his unshod hooves clomping in the red earth heading down into the draw where the tall grass grows. George gets a little dancy at the sight of so much lushness and goes into his famous lope, so easy that you could hold a beer glass in hand and not spill a drop.

I could have him for a month's pay at the writer's trade, but back in Florida where we live, George would be out of work, and if there's anything this horse loves it's working.

On the way back to the barn he sees a funny-looking stump, sidesteps, crowhops once, then the easy canter. I understand why my mother was a rider at age five, my wife, too. My brother's all horseman. I ride when I can and dream the ride when I cannot.