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Turtle Feet: The Making and Unmaking of a Buddhist Monkby Nikolai Grozni
Synopses & Reviews
Nikolai Grozni was a music prodigy, a jazz pianist training at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, when suddenly he decided to transform his life. He moved to India to become a Buddhist monk — shaving his head, learning Tibetan, and donning long traditional robes. In the Himalayas — living in a hut a stone's throw from the Dalai Lama's compound — Grozni became entrenched in a sometimes comical, sometimes reverent, always intriguing community comprised of feisty nuns, bossy monks, violent chess players, demanding teachers, and a spectacular friend called Tsar, a fallen monk from Bosnia.
Grozni went to India in search of knowledge, but learns that the people who can teach him the most are not wearing uniforms and following special diets, but rather those who, like him, struggle with doubts and cannot accept an established system of faith. Instead, he journeys with his colorful cast of friends to a new understanding of himself and his place in the world.
Like Anne Lamott or Elizabeth Gilbert, Nikolai Grozni offers the insights of a religious pilgrim from the insidein his case, from a male, Buddhist perspective. Thoughtful, funny, and elegantly written, Turtle Feet details the reality of a world much mythologized in the West and tells a wonderfully bittersweet story of a spiritual journey.
"This book about Tibetan monkhood certainly fits the description of the 'extreme' memoir. Written by a Bulgarian novelist who was educated in the United States (Brown University) and India (down the street from the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala), this book takes a long time to get good, but it does get there. The most fascinating character is not the narrator, an archetypal youthful apprentice figure. That honor is reserved for a fallen, stateless monk from Bosnia who is a Zorba figure, enticing the narrator not to lusty appreciation of the world's wonders but to what Buddhists call seeing things as they are-enlightenment that is ultimately no big deal. There are passages of beauty about the nature of the mind and existence that few books about Buddhism can rival, because few books about Buddhism are written by authors with creative training. But a good editor should have reined in the author's disproportionate focus on the main character's excesses; it would have helped pacing and made a shorter and more convincing read." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The spiritualist memoir becomes a rollicking buddy narrative, as the lusty Slav seduces and brawls his way through mountain villages and evades the Indian secret service. Some of the anecdotes... seem to have sprung from frat-house legend. The descriptions of India’s daily grind, however, are intimate and precise." Amy Finnerty, New York Times
"This is a rare and wonderful book, unlike anything I've ever read before. Rich in detail and humor, with a quirky and exotic cast of characters, it's an exquisitely written journey through life in a Tibetan monastery and village, where a brilliant young Western monk encounters discipline, freedom, Buddhism and himself." Anne Lamott
"Turtle Feet is a remarkable book. Yes, it's a spiritual journey filled with beautiful insights — but it's also a funny and gritty tale of dysentery, stoner roommates, cranky monks and flirty nuns. I felt enlightened for having read it." A. J. Jacobs
"The hyper, loopy yin to Grozni's mellow (or at least attempting to be mellow) yang, Tsar helps turn what could have been a staid memoir into something original and special. Zen and the art of writing a pretty cool book." Kirkus Reviews
A brilliantly colorful memoir of becoming a monk and a young man's spiritual journey in India.
Nikolai Grozni, a Boston jazz piano prodigy struck by spiritual ennui, suddenly abandoned 15 years of music studies to seek out the Dalai Lama's university in India, where he began his quest for the ultimate truth. Instead of finding answers, Grozni fell in with an unusual cast of characters, and struggled with Buddhist logic and with the many small challenges to life as a monk in a community of Tibetan refugees. Turtle Feet is his bittersweet and funny memoir about the search for higher power, and the discovery of oneself amidst teeming, chaotic, and glorious humanity.
About the Author
Nikolai Grozni was born in Sofia, Bulgaria, and educated in the United States and India. In previous incarnations, he has been a piano prodigy, jazz musician, Buddhist monk, and, most recently, the author of three novels published in Bulgaria. Grozni holds an MFA from Brown University. Turtle Feet is his first book of nonfiction.
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