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The Angry Buddhist Paperback – April 24, 2012
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THE SMALL, DRY TOWNS that lead eastward from Los Angeles to Indio, across the lap of California, form an island chain in a sea of sand, each with its own biome and yet each enough like the other to form, in aggregate, one place. The chain is a kind of Galapagos, easily isolated by its natural isolation, and ripe for study. It is in this insular region that The Angry Buddhist, Los Angeles writer Seth Greenland's third novel, operates, studying closely the evolutionary winners and losers of the area. But of course any region, even a solidly organized body such as that grassy monolith, the American Midwest, is never really just one place. There are subtleties and shadings visible only to those with adapted eyes, and it is those subtleties that Greenland crafts into a wild social farce, dependent on fine distinctions...
It is the human extremes that are Greenland's subject, and he captures the high and low end with a crafty gaze. He begins, logically, at the center, where there is plenty of shelter.
--Alison Powell (LA Review of Books)
This idea -- that messy and inept human striving is the best producer of plot -- recalls the recent fictive universes of Elmore Leonard, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers (lords of anarchy, all of them, and, I'd venture, influences here). This novel is Greenland's third, after "The Bones" and "Shining City," and it's easily his most ambitious.
Some one-liners still come off sounding too glib and cute (a young reporter "looks like she studied at the Victoria's Secret School of Journalism" and "Guilt is as pointless as the Pope in Tel Aviv"), but it's better to stuff in too many jokes than avoid them altogether. In any event, Greenland does bring more serious themes into play. The big issue, explored through the questing character of Jimmy Duke, is: "how is it possible to practice non-attachment if you have a moral perspective on the world?"
Novelists too need to be nimble, and "The Angry Buddhist" is a wild entertainment as well as a novel about the way we live now that dares to dance with the profound.
--Richard Rayner (LA Times)
"Profundity can be found in the strangest places," DharmaGirl counsels. "Everyone makes fun of fortune cookies. I don't know why."
"The Angry Buddhist" approaches all its characters with reliable misanthropy (not for nothing does Larry David provide this book's most visible blurb). And its story unfolds with dexterous ease. Even a minor figure like Hard's wife, Vonda Jean, who wears "an expression as nurturing as an oil spill" and always leaves the television on "so she'll have something else to listen to in the event Hard starts talking," is made funny and sharp. The book's women are more cartoonish than its men. But the competition is pretty fierce.
"The Angry Buddhist" makes a fine high-end beach read for election season. But, perhaps surprisingly, the least interesting story element in "The Angry Buddhist" is the anonymous political blogger who provides a running commentary on campaign issues. The blogger tethers this otherwise escapist fable to real life.
--Janet Maslin (New York Times)
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Top Customer Reviews
I will not go into the story-line, many other reviews have already done this so I will just rate the book on its elements (0 to 5 being highest):
Protagonist Development: 4
Antagonist Development: 4
Minor Character Development: 3
Writing Style: 4
Overall Rating: 4
An overview of the storyline is available elsewhere on this page so I won't go into it here. I thought the novel got off to a slow start but by the half way mark, the secret trysts, a series of murders and some very clever writing (think Kurt Vonnegut or Doug Adams) make it a real page turner. Although the main crimes (a series of murders) are described in detail, a key mystery remains until the end of the book regarding who the blogger is who writes such insightful, funny and biting commentaries on the many sordid incidents. The blogger reminded me of the chorus in a Greek drama, only with an attitude. This is a fun book but give it a hundred pages or so for it to get really good. By then you'll be hooked. If you want a fun read that involves a lot of real Buddhism, check out the (non-fiction) Bones of the Master: A Journey to Secret Mongolia.
Greenland writes like a desert-bleached Tom Wolfe, his raft of colorful characters flawed and often unlikable, from Randall Duke to the politico's ex-cop brother, Jimmy, and ex-con brother Dale, Jimmy clearly the most salvageable of the three, newly-released Dale relegated to a wheelchair that hardly impedes his criminal predilections. Then there are the ladies, Randall's indiscreet wife, Kendra, Marvin's wife Vonda Jean and the remarkably indiscriminate murder victim, Nadine Never. Small time crook Odin Brick and Randall's campaign manager, Maxon Brae, fill out the roster, along with Jimmy Duke's online Buddhist counselor and the desert Machiavelli, a blogger who reveals everyone's dirty little secrets. Like the prodigious Mr. Wolfe, Greenland is sometimes bitingly clever and sometimes a little too smug. One thing for sure: where there's wealth and power, there's greed and temptation. Luan Gaines/2012.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The only thing positive I can say is that it had a plot: beginning, middle and--thank god--an END. Nothing I would EVER recommend.Published 11 months ago by Louis Flick Hatcher
Not his best, but a great read. Has a few surprises as you read and can be quite a page turner. Three brothers, criminal, cop, politician very different and their intersecting... Read morePublished 14 months ago by The Advisor
Main focus is on two venal political candidates, one conservative, and the other even more conservative, in the run-up to an election. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Vital Spark
A terrific and truly funny send-up of modern life, loves and politics in the grand California desert. A great read.Published 22 months ago by RDM
Great approach, solid storytelling, and a very well thought out story. I especially liked the character development throughout the book.Published on July 15, 2014 by ryan
I love what a previous poster wrote: "a sun-bleached Tom Wolfe." That's spot on. Seth Greenland is a smart, observant writer with a fine-tuned sense of humor, sense of... Read morePublished on January 29, 2014 by Colleen Bates
Three brothers -- one a political fraud, one damaged beyond repair, and the third simply damaged -- make up the holy trinity in this fabulous noir novel. Read morePublished on May 13, 2013 by Laurie Winer