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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

August 15, 1993|CHRIS GOODRICH

THE FRUITFUL DARKNESS: Reconnecting With the Body of the Earth by Joan Halifax. (HarperCollins: $18; 240 pp.). Stories and myths, writes Buddhist anthropologist and lecturer Joan Halifax, are "connective tissue between culture and nature, between self and other, between life and death." So they are--but they don't come alive in this book, partly because Halifax's descriptions of her spiritual journeys seem forced, and partly because the Buddhist approach to life is difficult to capture in direct narrative. Though Halifax travels the world in "The Fruitful Darkness," we don't learn much about the places she visits, even about their spiritual lives; we're more likely to get doses of cliched sentiment, as when Halifax tells us that in Tibet, "The freezing water rushing past my tent seemed pure despite the filth it carried along," or that after seeing a dead coyote in Arizona she thinks of primal cultures and feels "grateful to have been born at a time and with a will to be with these old people in their homelands." "The Fruitful Darkness," in short, is neither fish nor fowl nor four-footed beast, feeling incomplete as quest, meditation and scholarship, too. The book, be it noted, has received some fulsome pre-publication notices--but it's impossible to read them without thinking that what's being praised is Halifax's unexceptionable intentions rather than the resulting book.

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