Spinning Karma: A Buddhist Comedy Novel by Joshua Samuel Brown is a politically-charged and spiritual adventure through the streets (and spas) of Taipei.
Joshua is best known for his keen sense of observation and witty style of adventure in travel writing and journalism. Having penned 13 travel guides and novels and being well known for his work with Lonely Planet, Brown is the perfect author to tackle the intricacies of politics between the US, Taiwan, and China while spinning a fun and engaging tale about Buddhism, cults, media in this day and age, and how people respond to the news.
This the author’s first work of fiction.
A great deal of this novel is set in Taiwan, but Brown is a keen observer of life in China and the US as well. His knowledge of all three countries is on full display in Spinning Karma.
He darts back and forth mostly between Taiwan and the US, taking humorous pokes at each culture and at people’s willingness to believe everything they see and read while using today’s media landscape as his place for action. (Although a fair amount of action happens at Mountain Spring Spa as you’re about to find out.)
You’d think this might be a long drawn-out tale given that the central topics to this book are religion, international relationships between countries, a media scandal, and a boisterous trip to Taipei.
But Brown does it in 240 pages of light-hearted comedy.
‘NAMASTAY’, RINPOCHE SCHWARTZ
The story begins with Schwartz as an acolyte of Mind of Pure Enlightenment. (MOPE) When a video surfaces showing members and their MOPE leader engaged in an orgy, MOPE is all but lost until its guru decides to retreat from society and take a 25-year vow of silence after naming Schwartz as the new Rinpoche.
Henceforth, the novel moves swiftly into Schwartz’s mid-life crisis as he bumbles his way from escapade to escapade. Rinpoche Schwartz begins his leadership by moving away from sex-cult shenanigans and towards more Buddhist teachings, but MOPE is not drawing the acolytes that it enjoyed during its ‘days of glory’.
Eventually Schwartz decides to spend some time in Taiwan reconnecting with his estranged son Burroughs. But as soon as he lands in Taiwan, trouble starts to brew when he takes over teaching his son’s class for a few days. Suddenly, a seemingly harmless video has gone viral on Schwartz’s YouTube channel and Schwartz is nowhere to be found.
We never really learn if Schwarz deliberately falls into the schemes he finds himself in or if this is just life presenting Schwartz’s own karma at play, but Brown leaves a life lesson for the reader to enjoy at each crisis along the way.
Entertaining, funny, and and thought provoking, Spinning Karma is 100% original. I can’t think of any Buddhist comedies that are set in Taiwan. Nor can I think of any novels that showcase how the media and politics intersect in such a satirical way.
Spinning Karma highlights today’s mainstream media landscape and the narratives it spins out to hungry readers that choose to believe the spin rather than actual facts surrounding news stories.
Having had the pleasure of reading Spinning Karma as a screenplay ten years ago and sending constant encouragement to Joshua to PUBLISH HIS BOOK over the years, it is with great delight that I tell you all now to please support local authors and buy this playful Buddhist comedy.
For those who know Taiwan well, I promise you will be chuckling throughout the whole book and wondering how Brown spins his magic (or karma) so well.
Official Book Blurb
Can a New Age guru save his cult without losing his soul?
In an ill-conceived effort to bring his once-popular meditation group and its teachings back into the limelight, Rinpoche Edward Schwartz heads to Taiwan to fabricate an improvised “religious oppression” video – starring a group of clueless language students who think they’re taking part in an English conversation class.
The video goes viral and the scheme succeeds beyond Schwartz’s wildest expectations, triggering a media-driven propaganda war between the United States and China that spirals out of control.
Before long, everybody from spiritual seekers in China and America to the Chinese government itself wants a piece of Schwartz’s cult – and of Schwartz himself.Spinning Karma, Joshua Samuel Brown
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