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In My Own Way: An Autobiography, 1915-1965 Hardcover – 1972

4.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon Books; 1st edition (1972)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394469119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394469119
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #592,026 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This autobiography, published 1972, by Alan Wilson Watts, the expatriate British orientalist and philosopher, is a joy to read, a document of Watts' life, and a history of the 1960s counterculture.
Watts early on evidenced a love for eastern philosophy. At the age of 20, he was already one of the major writers and thinkers on subjects such as Zen Buddhism and Taoism. He was a major exponent of the Zen outlook of Thou Art That.
Watts, an unfrocked Episcopal priest, has often been derided (wrongfully) as a 'popularizer' of subjects more properly reserved for serious study and practice, and (more rightly) as sometimes glib and definitely irreverent. This book is a record of Watts' indulgence in the pleasures of the flesh with a high spiritual purpose.
Watts wrote more than 20 books, and this is Watts at his irreverent best. Written with his tongue firmly jammed into his cheek, it is a compendium of a lifetime's worth of exuberant fun and learning for the joy of it.
Watts gleefully recounts tales of spiritual masters with stomachaches, hidebound bishops drinking fine wines, and sexy women discovering their Buddha-nature.
Nothing is too minor or too major for Watts's wit, and his reminiscences carry us from the bathroom of his childhood home in England to Canterbury Cathedral, from New York City to Big Sur, and touch on almost every major and many minor figures of the 1950s and 1960s.
Watts unabashedly tells us that he finds his life intensely interesting. Anyone reading IN MY OWN WAY would agree.
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By A Customer on October 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I didn't find this autobiography as appealing as many of the other flowery reviews. I like Alan Watts' philosophical pieces a lot, but there was something in the tone of his autobiography that was arrogant and misleading. His writing is beautiful, as usual, but there is lack of intimacy that I would have expected in a candid autobiography, especially from someone who claims to be a spiritual entertainer. The prose is sprinkled with reminders of how he realizes the ego is a fiction, and how he is enlightened in that sense. Which is fine, I suppose, but I thought the frequent reminders were a little unnecessary, or as he likes to put it, "putting legs on a snake."
More importantly, his recounting of his life completely lacks a sense of problems or misfortunes. Some people really do lack this, but from his biographies it is evident that Alan Watts did not. He does not (at the request of his father) talk about his relationship with his mother at all in the book, and he also does not discuss at all his alcoholism problems. He also does not discuss the sexual problems which led to his first marriage dissolving, and doesn't really explain why he divorced his second wife. I found this disappointing because he probably had a lot of wisdom to share about this. It also makes him seem less human. ...
Despite all this, the autobiography is entertaining and definitely worth reading for anyone interested in an inside view of the counterculture movement. His reflections, though at times a little too confident, are still mostly interesting to read.
However, I would recommend reading this book along with an objective biography like "Zen Effects- the Life of Alan Watts" to get a more balanced view on his life.
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Format: Hardcover
Though I was skeptical when handed this book - I am neither into religion nor do I desire to have a hip-zen lifestyle in Southern California - I was immediately drawn in to the way this amazing man's life unfolded. Early on, he set out to be an independent intellectual, constantly learning and living in his "own way." He succeeded, in spite of the odds, on the terms that he set out for himself. This was deeply inspiring to me, and it turned out that despite the surface differences of interest, Alan Watts had a lot to say about the choices one makes in life and how to go about living.
The book is also filled with details that are as fascinating as they are hilarious. A friend of his youth made a pilgrimage to a famous and ancient monastery, which he discovered was "an elaborate homosexual organization." Though he lacked a university degree, Watts was allowed to study at Northwestern, which he described as "the type of place where philosphers worked from 9 to 5." Later, in LA, he hung out with Aldous Huxley, experimenting with hallucinogens, beating drums all night long, and listening to the incredible rhythm of that brilliant man's speech, which he says arrested all conversation in entire restaurants. The list goes on and on.
Warmly recommended.
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Format: Paperback
In My Own Way: An Autobiography is the endlessly engrossing story of the persona, the public figure, of Alan Wilson Watts, who is sometimes referred to, and rightly so, as "the foremost interpreter of Eastern disciplines," and Zen Buddhism in particular. It was not Alan's idea to write this book, as he candidly admits in the Preface to the book, since in his opinion he had not done anything worthy of recounting. "I have not fought in wars, explored mountains and jungles, battled in politics, commanded great business corporations, or accumulated vast wealth. It seemed to me, therefore, that I had no story to tell as the world judges stories."
It was only at the insistence of two women in his life, his publisher's editor, Paula McGuire, and his third wife, Mary Jane Yates, that he consented to write down the details of the making of Alan Watts. Along the way we meet the people who influenced Alan, who helped guide, shape, and direct his persona. And though he was influenced by many people in his life, whose works and ideas found their way into his many books, essays, and lectures, Alan possessed, all on his own, a certain knack or genius for getting at the essence of a theme or subject. And then he was able to effectively communicate that essence, using his abundant imagination, to his readers and listeners. And this not just for the highbrows in the audience, but for every class of person who picks up one of his books and proceeds to make the effort to understand the ideas and concepts he expresses. Alan's work was, if anything, accessible to the reader, whatever his level of interest.
The title of this review, The Way I Came To Be, refers to the story that makes up the book.
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