Zen Fables for Today: Stories Inspired by the Zen Masters
. Avon Books: Hearst Corporation . NY
BQ9266.M39 1998 (Carlson Fable Collection, BIC bldg)
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This is a humane little book. McLean gives a good short introduction to Zen Buddhism and then offers almost 100 fine short fables. The illustrations are not very helpful, but the texts are well done. Several fables are Aesopic: Aesop's story of the greedy and envious men shows up in a new form on 38, and his OR is included on 43. The Boy with the Filberts in a Jar shows up on 54, but now it has to do with a monkey grasping rice inside a gourd. He is eaten by a leopard! Another old friend, not Aesopic, shows up on 55 where a monk in a flood expects an angel's promised protection and so rejects offers from neighbors, local officials in a cart, and a rescue team in a boat. You can guess what the angel says to him when he meets him after death! I will list by page number some of the best fables and then single our four for special mention. Among the very good fables are those on 29, 34, 82, 92, 94, 98, 108, and 112. A fable that dramatizes an event in the genesis of the book is on 45; its key line is When the student is ready, the teacher appears. The next story (46) is excellent on the desire to change places with someone else; it makes a great companion piece to Monterroso's fable about the frog with great legs! Maybe the best of all the stories is about a Catholic bishop meeting with a Zen teacher. A typical fable is on 70 about two artists (Mr. Glad and Mr. Sad) in a nursing home. I enjoyed this book!