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The Great Failure Multimedia CD – 2004

36 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • CD-ROM
  • Publisher: Sounds True, Incorporated (2004)
  • ASIN: B000MHN2XS
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • This page was created by a seller.

More About the Author

Natalie Goldberg lived in Brooklyn until she was six, when her family moved out to Farmingdale, Long Island, where her father owned the bar the Aero Tavern. From a young age, Goldberg was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which she read in ninth grade. She thinks that single book led her eventually to put pen to paper when she was twenty-four years old. She received a BA in English literature from George Washington University and an MA in humanities from St. John's University.

Goldberg has painted for as long as she has written, and her paintings can be seen in Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World and Top of My Lungs: Poems and Paintings. They can also be viewed at the Ernesto Mayans Gallery on Canyon Road in Sante Fe.

A dedicated teacher, Goldberg has taught writing and literature for the last thirty-five years. She also leads national workshops and retreats, and her schedule can be accessed via her website:

In 2006, she completed with the filmmaker Mary Feidt a one-hour documentary, Tangled Up in Bob, about Bob Dylan's childhood on the Iron Range in Northern Minnesota. The film can be obtained on Amazon or the website

Goldberg has been a serious Zen practitioner since 1974 and studied with Katagiri Roshi from 1978 to 1984.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Cathy Goodwin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book differs in subject and style from Natalie Goldberg's previous books. Here she writes of feeling betrayred by two father figures, her natural father and her Buddhist teacher Katagiri Roshi, the bartender and the monk of the subtitle. Attending an abuse group, she begins to remember episodes from her childhood and she wants her family to acknowledge how they harmed her.

Without sparing herself, and with a hint of irony, Goldberg writes of confronting her parents by letter. They react with almost comic bewilderment. Goldberg's mother, Sylvia, a child of immigrants, views the world literally: did you eat and sleep? Were you warm? Her father, Buddy, ran a "rough" bar for years. His response to Goldberg's accusations was, "Were you on drugs?" Psychology, the author summarizes, was developed in a country outside Brooklyn.

Even after the family reconciles - which means she begins speaking to them after three years - Goldberg's parents still don't understand her new life. When Goldberg offers to give them a Zen experience, her father begins singing along with the silence bell. In one of their last visits, Buddy whispers an insulting remark about Natalie's weight.

The author gets her second shock, as word spreads about Katagiri Roshi's numerous love affairs with Zen students. She begins to remember episodes she'd tried to ignore. She recalls Roshi's remarks about her beauty. And ultimately she recognizes that Roshi gave her a tremendous gift, regardless of his personal life. She writes (page 136) that both artists and religious leaders can be "enlightened" in their work, yet function "cruelly and ignorantly" in their personal lives.
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61 of 65 people found the following review helpful By S. D Temple on December 4, 2005
Format: Hardcover
The oddest and most disturbing memoir of abuse is perhaps Kathryn Harrison's book "The Kiss", about her sexual relationship with her father, a relationship that extended into adulthood. In contrast, Natalie Goldberg's book is odd precisely because it is difficult to figure out who did what harm to her, despite the fact that the book is packaged in the language of sexual expoitation. That her father could be boorish, insensitive, unattuned to his daughter's needs, and at times frightening, is not in doubt. Whatever sexual doubts and insecurities the author harbored, were only amplified by his grossly unattuned parenting of her. And while the author takes pains to document allegations that her beloved Zen teacher, the renowned Dainin Katagiri Roshi, she states that he never sexually expoited her. To be sure, both men disappointed her. And this seems to be the crux of the memoir. It is really a lament about disillusionment, important people in the author's life who were flawed and imperfect, despite her emotional needs that they be otherwise.

To her credit, Natalie Goldberg is a fine writer, who manages to put her own frailties on the page for the reader's scrutiny. She deserves credit for this. The book will lead readers to question our own assumptions about teachers, about parents, and about the failure of those important people in our lives to be 'perfect'. Goldberg doesn't provide any neat and tidy epiphanies here. But in a sad and loving tribute to her teacher, she leaves the best lines about this matater for Katagiri, himself. In response to a question from a student, asking if "it's okay to just listen to yourself?", Katagiri responds: "Ed, I tried very hard to practice Dogen's Zen. After twenty years I realized there was no Dogen's Zen.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Katherine Masis on April 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Idealization of spiritual teachers can be so strong that news of their ethical misconduct is just as shocking after their death as while they are alive. In her latest book, The Great Failure: A Bartender, a Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth (Harper San Francisco, 2004) Natalie Goldberg poignantly reveals her dismay and disappointment at finding out, several years after his death, that Katagiri Roshi, her Zen teacher, had slept with some of his female students. Similarly, Goldberg shares her dismay at finding out about her father's extramarital affair after his death.

Psychotherapists, doctors, school teachers, college professors, and supervisors at work may represent parental figures from the past to their clients, patients, students or employees. These relationships may evoke yearnings and expectations in clients, patients, students or employees that may or may not be met. "I needed to be reflected in another," Goldberg admits (p. 101). This is what Freud had called "transference," and the relationships between spiritual teachers and their students are fraught with potential for sticky transferences that may become very difficult to work through-especially since they are rarely, if at all, acknowledged or commented on in the spiritual teacher-student relationship. "Unknowingly, Roshi became my mother, my father, my Zen master" (p. 102).

Not only do spiritual teachers represent parental figures for their students-in a very real sense, they represent, for want of a better term, the Divine.
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