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Shoes Outside the Door

Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center

List Price: $18.95

August 15, 2002 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 416 Pages | ISBN 9781582432540
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"Shoes Outside the Door is a not only a fine history of the San Francisco Zen Center and Zen in the United States, it is a cautionary tale, valuable to anyone embarked on a spiritual practice." —San Jose Mercury News

Eastern tradition collides with Western individualism in this provocative and compulsively readable investigation of Buddhism, American-style. A genuine spiritual movement becomes strangely entangled with elitist aesthetics, the culture of celebrity, multi-million-dollar investment portfolios, sex scandals, and an unsolved crime. Told Rashomon-fashion by a singular mix of hippies, millionaires, intellectuals, and lost souls whose lives are almost unbelievably intertwined, Shoes Outside the Door is the first book to examine the inner workings of the profoundly influential San Francisco Zen Center. In exploring the history of the most important institution in American Buddhism, author Michael Downing provocatively captures the profound ambivalence of people who earnestly seek both inner peace and worldly satisfaction.

MICHAEL DOWNING‘s novels include the national bestseller Perfect Agreement, named one of the 10 Best Books of the year by Amazon and Newsday, and Breakfast with Scot, a comedy about two gay men who inadvertently become parents. An American Library Association honor book, Breakfast with Scot was adapted as a movie that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. His nonfiction includes Shoes Outside the Door: Desire, Devotion, and Excess at San Francisco Zen Center, hailed by the New York Review of Books as a “dramatic and insightful” narrative history of the first Buddhist monastery outside of Asia, and by the Los Angeles Times as “a highly readable book.” His essays and reviews appear in the New York TimesWashington PostWall Street Journal, and other periodicals. Michael teaches creative writing at Tufts University. He and his partner have lived together in Cambridge for more than 25 years.

Praise

Shoes Outside the Door is a not only a fine history of the San Francisco Zen Center and Zen in the United States, it is a cautionary tale, valuable to anyone embarked on a spiritual practice.” —San Jose Mercury News

“This intense investigation/indictment from novelist Downing uncovers the alleged abuses of power of Richard Baker, former abbot of the nation’s most influential Zen center… this book deserves a wide reading, and not only by the many Buddhists who will buy it lickety-split.” —Publishers Weekly

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