Thursday, February 25, 2016

Grand Canyon Zen Golf Tour: A review by Jake Berry

THE GRAND CANYON ZEN GOLF TOUR - A Memoir by Jack Random – Featuring the Handbook of Zen Golf (Crow Dog Press) $13.95 available at…/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1…

Lest you think this a light new age collection of clich├ęs wrapped around zen and golf, think again. Jack Random (aka Ray Miller) brings to both subjects, and their inevitable coalescence, the gravity of experience and the music of a master story teller. This is a road story, and is not out of place among the ancient tales from Gilgamesh's search for the plant of immortality to the Odyssey or Twain and Kerouac. Written in a voice that sounds like a cool concoction of Dashiell Hammett and Hunter S. Thompson, yet never imitative of them, Random's odyssey is born of a time when he lived on the sweet edge always barely one step ahead of the courting allies of death, madness and the ultimate ecstasy from which no one returns. Despite the dangers he never abandons his brooding wit. One feels that no matter how difficult the circumstance he retains enough detachment to laugh at himself and Wiz, his traveling companion (and better known to some as James Wisniewski – musician, visual artist and designer), as they wander from golf course to canyon to locations so stark and abandoned it chills the bones. Random does not take his zen sitting down or his golf along carefully manicured greens – though he's no stranger to either – he makes demands of himself and the world he encounters in the manner of a sorcerer and seer. The two wandering bodhisattvas might tee off anywhere, and nowhere, and transform the entire landscape before them into a rough that will deliver enlightenment or else. The book is appended by a revised version of the Handbook of Zen Golf composed by Miller and Wisniewski and published under other nom de plumes. The original was small enough to fit in a pocket and designed to be carried on the course. The wisdom it contains is certainly as valid as it was then for a round of golf, or for a lifetime. Even if you don't golf or care anything for the sport you'll find yourself caught in the pleasure of following the journey through one adventure to the next. This is a fine example of Miller's style – awake to the harsh realities of the world and forever seeking the spiritual in confident, unflinching prose loaded with no small amount of poetry.

The Grand Canyon Zen Golf Tour is only one of many volumes by Jack Random now available online at in both print and digital versions. There are novels, screeds and collections of the political writings that frequently appear on the Random Jack blog. Random is that rare combination of a writer of genuine substance that is always a pleasure to read.

Editor's Note: From Chapter 12: "Jake Berry is a poet’s poet, a master craftsman of words, an inventor of language and an architect of letters and imagery. His name in the underground circle of poets is legendary. Poet, musician, songwriter and graphic artist, his seminal work Brambu Drezi as well as Species of Abandoned Light have found a noted publisher in San Francisco."

The Pocketbook of Zen Golf was designed to fit in a pocket; the Handbook was a little large for the average pocket.