37 of 56 people found the following review helpful
Misleading, misthought, miswritten,
This review is from: Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists (Hardcover)
My more detailed review is at [...], but the enthusiasm for this book on the web compels me to add to it. I understand the appeal of this book, but, especially in this John Cage centennial year, it provides a misleading and shallow view of the man and his work.
The influence of Zen thought on Cage's work is important, but it's a part of a whole. Zen thought was a component of his move towards his encompassing philosophy of composition as process. But it was just a part, and as Cage moved through the decades, much of that explicit thinking was replaced by other ideas, and ultimately Duchamp and Thoreau were more important to him.
Larson passionately yokes Cage to her own faith, and what she does is unfair. The breathless psychological Romanticism is antithetical to the man, she's constantly speculating about what he might have read and how he might have thought about it and then making her case, such as it is, from those unsupported assertions.
Larson knows nothing about the music, and is so uncomfortable with it that rather than having an opinion she defers to various critics. This is a device perhaps suited for a high school English paper, not here. She obsesses over 4',33" and Music of Changes and this crowds out all the important, beautiful music and art Cage created (he was a composer, after all, not a philosopher, and her later disavowed the overly-determined chance processes - from the Tao, not Zen - that he used for the latter work). Very badly written and edited as well. I know why this book was published, but in the current version it should never have been published.
If you want an introduction to Cage as he was and is, Rob Haskin's new Critical Life is superb: learned, clear, brief, both truly loving and truly critical.John Cage (Reaktion Books - Critical Lives)
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Initial post: Oct 8, 2012 1:44:10 AM PDT
T. Porges says:
Thank you. Reviews this harsh are not normally also this helpful. And thank you for reminding me of Haskins' _Life_, which I'd meant to read, and forgotten.
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