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The Great Failure: My Unexpected Path to Truthby Natalie Goldberg
Synopses & Reviews
"What was I doing standing up in front of everyone anyway?...They had signed up for this lovely New Age weekend down in Florida — what was going on with this Natalie Goldberg? I knew only a handful had read any of my books. How was I going to leap over this mess smoothly and talk about writing practice, where I was on solid ground? I mentioned the horses from the seminar title — ahh, relief on their faces — they had come to the correct lecture hall after all.
Then everything dropped away. I had nothing to say."
So begins the journey by one of America's favorite writing teachers. Natalie Goldberg has inspired millions to write to develop an intimate relationship with their minds and a greater understanding of the world in which they live. Now, through this honest exploration of her own life, Goldberg puts her teachings to work.
In this wry, nimble memoir, Natalie Goldberg candidly depicts her father, Ben, an old-fashioned man's man who knew no boundaries — a trait that was at once his greatest strength and most profound weakness. In capturing the essence of this larger-than-life Jewish bartender, she reveals the intricacies of a precarious father-daughter relationship. The tenuous bond with her father leads her in many directions and ultimately to Dainin Katagiri Roshi, a dynamic, celebrated Zen master. In light of an eye-opening discovery that shakes her ideal of this beloved teacher, Goldberg revisits her many years of loyal practice under Roshi's guidance.
Elegantly weaving these tales together, this story is finally a search for truth when there are no easy answers. Filled with Goldberg's trademark gifts for both humor and teaching, The Great Failure touches our hearts and minds as we come to recognize the ways in which we fail to confront our illusions.
"'Of course, we are drawn to teachers that unconsciously mirror our own psychology,' writes Goldberg in a memoir about her wrestling match with her particular devil. In Writing Down the Bones, she coupled writing with the insights of Zen Buddhism, showing writers how to use a stream of consciousness approach to move through blocks and understand their true experience. Here, however, as Goldberg explores the link between her elegant Zen master, Katagiri Roshi, and the gritty, charming bartender father who sexually violated her, she inadvertently demonstrates this approach's shortcoming. Years after his death, Goldberg learned that Katagiri, the teacher who taught her so much (and the subject of Long Quiet Highway), carried on affairs with female students. Goldberg was shattered; she'd wanted to believe he was an immaculate refuge. Liberation through disillusionment is a universal and durable theme, yet as Goldberg muses and tells stories — splicing in a long Zen tale for a little extra-dimensional oomph — her account closes rather than opens up. In spite of her fluid writing and honesty, the work feels insular and self-cherishing, like personal notes rather than a compelling narrative for the rest of us. Many readers will conclude that this is a not-so-great failure after all, or perhaps a heartache that hasn't really healed. Agent, Geri Thoma. Author tour. (Sept.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Teaching by example, Natalie Goldberg has written a brave and turbulent memoir that is by turns luminous and gritty." Julia Cameron, author of The Artist's Way
"What readers are most likely to appreciate and to learn from is her dogged determination to get at the truth and to come clean about personal failings. This is the path toward better understanding, a road Goldberg has unwaveringly navigated throughout her writing life." Booklist
"A searingly honest memoir. I read it and immediately started again." Laura Davis, author of The Courage to Heal and I Thought We'd Never Speak Again
"Natalie writes with Zen-like clarity and heartful depth of feeling in an account that is bravely honest." Joseph Goldstein, author of One Dharma
From the bestselling author of Writing Down the Bones, Wild Mind and Long Quiet Highway, Natalie Goldberg's latest work is a soul stirring account of her complex relationships with the two most important people in her life.
One of America's favorite teachers, Natalie Goldberg has inspired millions to write as a way to develop an intimate relationship with their minds and a greater understanding of the world in which they live. Now, through this honest and wry exploration of her own life, Goldberg puts her teachings to work.
The bestselling author of "Writing Down the Bones" offers her compelling story of love, loss, and betrayal--a memoir that is ultimately a search to discover the truth that lives within all great failures.
About the Author
Natalie Goldberg is the author of ten books, including Writing Down the Bones, which has sold over one million copies and has been translated into twelve languages. She has also written the beloved Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, a memoir about her Zen teacher. For the last thirty years she has practiced Zen and taught seminars in writing as a spiritual practice. She lives in northern New Mexico.
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