From Publishers Weekly
Tompkins (Paradise Fever) offers a witty, provocative memoir about the struggle to get wise in a time and in a culture where the world's great wisdom books are as available as candy bars at the 7-11. For all their amazing abundance, according to the author, "these maps don't seem to be able to speak to us in the same way that they did back in the time when there was essentially one wisdom source per culture." With deadpan humor, the disaffected son of a once-legendary New Age author, Peter Tompkins (The Secret Life of Plants), describes dropping out of Vassar in the early '80s to emulate the "Life Manuals," pop wisdom-getting narratives like Carlos Castenada's shaman saga. Along with lectures on Taoism and Zen Buddhism by Alan Watts and the novels of Henry Miller, these manuals inspired Tompkins to revere teachers who got enlightened without the usual pitfalls and rules. Alas, slogging through the jungles of Colombia as a photographer's assistant initiates Tompkins only in the embarrassment of being a wealthy white witness to dire poverty. He encounters one drunken shaman who agrees to be photographed for money, and that proves a far happier event than the psychedelic trip that Tompkins later takes on a New Age ranch in New Mexico. He ends with the valuable insight that our wisdom-commodifying contemporary culture has lost a taste for wisdom as process. Astute readers will long for Tompkins to put his hinted-at Christian card on the table. Indeed, essays like "Mystics and Zen Masters" by Thomas Merton demonstrate how a grown man secure in his own tradition might study another tradition for the light it sheds on his own.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Of the various paths available to those in search of life's meaning, Tompkins (Paradise Fever) chose the path of Buddhism while also incorporating insights from Taoism and Native American spirituality. His book is a journal of the search he began when as a teenager he read what he refers to as "life manuals," such as the Tao Te Ching and the Bhagavad-Gita. The reader travels along with him on both the physical and the spiritual path, as Tompkins attempts to apply the principles of these texts and others to his life. An important trip was one he took to Colombia with his older stepbrother, a photographer and a Buddhist who eventually became a monk, during which they encountered a shaman. Tompkins's journeys took him across the United States and eventually back to college, which he had rejected a few years earlier. While not a life manual itself, it provides a good introduction to Buddhism and Taoism in an easy fashion. For religion and spirituality collections. John Moryl, Yeshiva Univ. Lib., New York
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.