Thursday, February 07, 2008

THE TAO OF POOH by Benjamin Hoff

The Book: Benjamin Hoff, THE TAO OF POOH. Penguin paperback reprint, 1983. Very good condition; pages are age-browned. Owner's signature inside front cover.
First read: 1984
Owned since: 1985

Happy Chinese New Year, everybody, and a most prosperous Year of the Rat. I am a Snake, and as a friend observed on another blog yesterday, snakes eat rats. Be warned.

I don't know why I still have this book, and it embarrasses me that I do. I read it before I read the Tao Te Ching itself, and before I knew anything about Taoism beyond what they taught us in ninth-grade World Cultures. This book seems almost intolerably precious to me now, and although my love for Pooh is eternal, I can't help thinking of Dorothy Parker's review of The House at Pooh Corner: "Tonstant Weader Fwowed Up."

The book is, of course, an attempt to explain the basic tenets of Taoism through the wisdom of Winnie the Pooh and his friends. It's a clever idea, although Hoff has to stretch a few points, and the framing device -- wherein the author discusses his project with Pooh himself -- is just, er, unbearable.

Friends of mine are very fond of this book -- I originally read it on the enthusiastic recommendation of one of my then-housemates. I do understand its appeal, and no one could argue with its message, which is simply to Stop. Be still. Be here now, pay attention, and try to integrate yourself with the whole of the world's energy. Every contemplative religious practice seeks this end, because "the world's energy," whether you call it wa or Dao or enlightenment, is just another word for God. And it's horribly snobbish of me to object to this book just because it's too cute for me. Many paths lead to one object...

... all the same, I think I'll give this away to anyone who wants it. If you do, shoot me an e-mail.


guyot said...

I love the book. I have the distinction of being the guy who turned Julia Roberts on to it back in 1990... uh, not something I should really brag about, I guess. Eh.

Don't give it away. You're at a stage right now where it seems too cute, but in a few years things will cycle around and you'll pull it off the shelf again and smile that you kept it.

AnswerGirl said...

Ahhh, you're probably right. I'm cranky these days, but will probably cheer up and wuv all the wittle bunnies again in a month or two.

Ed Lamb said...

I'd rather have a catechism. A religion without actual rules, like Taoism, isn't much of a religion. How do you know when you're doing it wrong? Not becoming one with the universe just doesn't seem like enough of an immediate disincentive to f'ing up.

-- Ed