Friday, December 16, 2016

Booknote: Cold Mountain

Sean Michael Wilson,, Cold Mountain: the Legend of Han Shan and Shih Te, the Original Dharma Bums.  ISBN: 978-1-61180-179-8. Boston, MA: Shambhala, 2015. 

Genre: graphic  novels and comics
Subgenre: nonfiction, poetry, zen, buddhism
Format: trade paperback
Source: Berea branch of the Madison County (KY) Public Library

This graphic novel is a biography and poetry adaptation of the lives of Han Shan and Shih Te. They were two of China's greatest poets; they lived during the Tang Dynasty (618-906 C.E.). They were critical of authority and champions of social justice, living a simple life. You could call them eccentric, but they were certainly simple men filled with compassion and wisdom. But did they exist? We do know they left poems carved in rocks in Cold Mountain. Some of those poems are presented in this book.

The book combines scenes of the poets' lives with a selection of their poems. It is a light reading with some light humor. Yet for their apparent simplicity, some of the poems do have some depth. They offer us much to think and meditate about. The book is divided into three parts. The first two parts are scenes from the poets' lives. The third part is a closer look at some of their poems. All this comes to life thanks to the great art of Akiko Shimojima. The art really brings the poets to life, reflecting their humble, happy, and simple lives well.

Overall, this is a volume that I really enjoyed. Shambhala lately has been putting out some nice graphic novels, and this one is no exception. The story can be a bit fragmentary, that is likely reflective of the fact there are many things we do not know about these wise bums. But we do know their influence lived on, even read by Beat writers in the United States. This book now brings Han Shan and Shit Te to new audiences in a friendly and accessible way.

5 out of 5 stars.

This book qualifies for the following 2016 Reading Challenges:

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