An Evening with Brad Warner

Brad Warner

R and I went to Diesel Books in Oakland last night to hear Brad Warner speak. He’s doing his tour to promote his new book, Zen Wrapped in Karma Dipped in Chocolate. Brad spoke for a bit over an hour about the circumstances that led to him doing this book (and a bit on the others) and took some Q&A from the audience.

It was interesting to hear him speak in person. As others have said, when you hear him in person, as opposed to just reading his writing on his blog, he comes off as a lot less of an asshole and with more of a sense of humor. I actually enjoyed his talk and, while I own his books, I haven’t been a huge fan of some of his behavior online. He, of course, alluded to the whole Genpo Roshi issue but managed to avoid actually mentioning him by name. He had some amusing anecdotes about wandering into, one assumes, Green Gulch of the San Francisco Zen Center, wearing his brown rakusu without realizing that in their organization a brown rakusu has a specific meaning related to the level of transmission or ordination of the person wearing it. He said people kept staring at him and he wondered if he had a booger hanging out of his nose or if something else was wrong.

I thought it was interesting that he mentioned writing three science fiction novels before writing his Zen books. These, of course, were not published but prepared him for how to submit a book to a publisher expecting it to fail, which was what he expected with his first book, Hardcore Zen. I did get to ask him if he could be the L. Ron Hubbard of the Zen world, which elicited a comment that he lived in LA so you had to be careful making Hubbard remarks where he lived for fear of consequences (said with a laugh).

All in all, an interesting and brief talk. I’ve already picked up his latest book and I randomly read about a chapter of it. It seems to be a much more personal book, dealing with his divorce, job loss, and deaths in the family, that his previous two but he’s always mixed a lot of the personal into his books.