The Hardcore Zen audiobook has arrived! You can get it at CD Baby by following the link below:
Don't risk damaging your eyes and your brain doing old-fashioned style reading just like your grandma did back during the Gold Rush while sucking down a sarsparilla! Get with the times! Download the audiobook like a real 21st Century citizen.
People have been talking about an audiobook version of Hardcore Zen since 2003. But nobody did anything. Last year Smog Veil Records said they wanted to do it. So I went to Wisdom Publications and they said, "No. We want to do it!" So I waited around for like six months. After hearing nothing, I contacted Wisdom and they were like, "Oh we don't want to do it anymore." So I told them thanks for letting me know and said I was gonna do it myself and now HERE IT IS!
This is a real DIY piece of work. But for all that, it came out pretty good. That's because the quality you can get with cheap equipment at home is like twice as good as what you could get using a professional studio twenty or even ten years ago. Pirooz Kaleyah, director of Shoplifting from American Apparel, donated a Snowball microphone made by a company called Blue. I plugged that into my MacBook, opened up Garage Band and started reading the book.
I haven't read Hardcore Zen even silently to myself since before it was published. The last time I read it all the way through was when I had to proofread the final copy edited version just before it went to press. I've read bits and pieces of it since then. But not the whole book.
I still have mixed feelings about that book. It's OK. It might even be good. But it's not the book I wanted it to be.
I wanted Hardcore Zen to be an example of what it was about. I wanted it to be a punk rock book about punk rock. As it stands it's sort of a self-help book about punk rock.
As a punk rock book about punk rock it would have been rougher, less professional, and far less formulaic. It was intended to have digressive passages that just wandered off into nowhere for no discernible reason. I wanted it to meander> I wanted readers to be like, "what the fuck just happened?" Only one of those digressions actually made the cut.
In that particular digression, I wanted to describe some of the interesting things that have come up from my practice. Nishijima Roshi always said, "When you do zazen, you come back to your childhood." This is really true. At one point I kept getting flooded with memories of things that had happened very long ago. I started to understand that the way I had perceived and conceived of the world when I was two or three years old was more correct than the way I had learned to perceive and conceive of it as an adult.
One of those memories involved being in the back of an old VW bug, probably my grandmother's. Those cars had this weird storage space right behind the back seat, between the seat and the window. A little tiny kid could fit in there. And my memory was of being in there and looking out at the sky through the little oval back window. That space is so small there's no way I could have been more than three years old. Probably less. But something about the way things had looked to me that day came rushing back all at once.
So I wrote it down. But instead of telling the story in the first person, I told it in second person (i.e. "You are sitting in a VW bug" or whatever I said). Josh Bartok, my editor, really wanted to cut that out. But I held fast. He cut out a lot of other good stuff. But I wasn't going to let him take that one away. Still, he did move it to the end of a chapter where its placement was a little more "user friendly" and normal. Ah well...
My version of the book wouldn't have sold nearly as well. So it's fine.
I also realized, while reading the book aloud, why that book has sold so much better than my others. Recently I was told by somebody who is supposed to know about such things that my books would sell better if they were more "prescriptive."
I was like, "More what?"
Apparently that means you have to give life lessons. People love life lessons. This person told me that I should write out my stories of things that happened to me and then follow those up with, like, a little capsule lesson to take away from it. I went to the library and took out a bunch of books by the likes of Deepak Choprah, Joel Osteen and even our old buddy Thich Naht Hanh. Choprah and Osteen follow that formula to the letter. Every single chapter is set up exactly like that. First the story, then the life lesson. They even put the thing you're supposed to learn from this story in big bold letters so you can't possibly miss it. TNH's books don't follow the formula quite so closely, but it's in there with his writing as well.
As I read the book aloud I realized that in editing my manuscript, Josh Bartok had done precisely the same thing. He didn't change too much of what I wrote. He just moved the sentences and paragraphs around such that it went Story, Life Lesson, Story, Life Lesson etc. It follows the Joel Osteen, Deepak Choprah formula very closely.
This doesn't make it a bad book. It's fine. But it makes it a lot like a pretty standard self-help book. Except that it's not really a self-help book at all. It's way more practical than anything Osteen or Choprah ever wrote, and far more real. Deepak Choprah and Joel Osteen can eat my shorts. After they finish polishing the Mercedeses and winding their Rolexes. They're rich, but they suck. I'm poor as shit, but at least I don't suck.
The only parts of the book that made me squirmy were the little cheerleading style bits near the end. Basically the entire epilogue kind of made me want to barf a little bit. The book was meant to end with the story of eating the tangerine. It was supposed to stop right there. But instead, I was encouraged to write that little cheerleader section that ends it. And I did. So I can't blame anyone else for that. Maybe it's OK. Maybe people need that kind of thing.
All that being said, I still feel like it's a worthy book. It's a very polished, refined version of what I really wanted to say. The rough edges were sanded down and made pretty. But it's still mostly there.
I didn't change anything as I was reading. I feel like it should stand as it actually is. I hated what George Lucas did to the Star Wars movies and I don't even want to see how he messed up THX 1138. Those movies should stand as what they actually were. And so should Hardcore Zen.
Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate is still a far superior book. I'm not sure if I could do an audiobook of that one, though. It's too intense. It's too personal. I might try it sometime. If I succeed, I'll let you know.