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Dharma Punx: A Memoir
by Noah Levine
ISBN 0060008946 / 9780060008949 / 0-06-000894-6
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"Buddhism and punk rock," writes former skate punk, drug addict, and petty thief and current Buddhist meditation instructor Noah Levine in his memoir Dharma Punx, "obviously have some huge differences." No argument there. "But," he continues, "for me they are both part of a single thread that has been stitched through every aspect of my life." Judging by Levine's childhood, it's amazing there's any salvageable material with which to stitch. He was suicidal at age five, smoking pot and drinking beer while crashing headlong into the Bay Area punk scene by the 8th grade, and in and out of jail as a wayward teen who stole VCRs from neighbors to finance a crack habit. After he hit bottom and embraced a Buddhist path similar to that endorsed by his father, author Stephen Levine, the trappings of his previous life were largely rejected. Except for the punk rock, which Levine channeled into a Buddhist worldview. The first section of the book is harrowing as Levine details his descent into addiction and does so with a simple matter-of-fact approach that makes his tale all the more compelling. Levine is a potent central character, always sympathetic even when he's neither likable nor completely forgivable. Later sections lack the same impact and consist largely of travelogues of the author's journeys around the world in search of spiritual satisfaction along with attempts to reconcile the disparate worlds of punk and Buddhism. Nonetheless, it is satisfying to see Levine return to the juvenile halls where he was once incarcerated, this time as a counselor. While there is nothing especially unique about the literary genre of reformed addict memoir, it's a genre that rarely involves punk rockers or Buddhists. Levine's unique and skillfully related journey will appeal to punks, Buddhists, and anyone interested in the idea or redemption. --John Moe [via]