Eel Pie Island Dharma
Trade Paperback: 132 pages
Publication Date: October 1, 2012
Suggested Retail (Paperback): $17.95
A hippie memoir/haibun
I like books that open new worlds for me. This is one. It will take you on a tour of the weird and wonderful world of hippies—not as seen by an outsider or imagined by us ordinary people, but as remembered by a genuine draft-resisting, love-making, pot-smoking 1960s hippie.
Things like that couldn’t happen today. The world has changed. I remember going to a love-in on a California beach in 1966, where the security was provided by the Hells Angels and everything went swimmingly. Even with the brutality of the Vietnam War in the background, in some ways our society was more innocent then.
The literary form of this memoir is haibun—prose narrative mixed with haiku—a form that dates back to the accounts of the first haiku master Matsuo Bashō of his long journeys on foot in Japan in the late 1600s. His The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches still makes exemplary reading. Chris Faiers’ Eel Pie Dharma, first published in 1990, is one of the early applications of haibun in the English language.
Chris, an acknowledged pioneer of English-language haiku, has been writing haiku for over forty-four years and has published them by the hundreds. So, what are they like? Here are two examples from this book:
to a naked man
with a peeled egg
Players of the Oriental board game Go have a proverb: “If a move is not necessary, it is bad.” Chris writes haiku like that. With a good eye for telling detail, and leaving everything else out, and never stooping to cleverness, he gives you simple unadorned kernels of what he saw or felt. You can take them or leave them.
In many ways, this little book gives us much to think about. But you don’t need to think about it, you can just jump in and let Chris take you for a ride.
Blurb about the book:
This book is one of the most important historical document of the 60s, a memoir in haibun form. It is part of the Hidden Brook Press, celebrated North Shore Series – the 28th book in this renowned Canadian literature series.
This memoir of a sixties survivor has become a haiku/haibun classic and an oft-quoted reference for the heady ferment which was the tail end of the 1960s.
Meet a Beatle! Attend the first Glastonbury music festival! Fight cops and skinheads at the infamous 144 Piccadilly squat! Hear a banshee and walk across Ireland … live in the derelict Eel Pie Island Hotel with hippies, junkies and bikers … be seduced by school girls … drop acid in Cambridge … sleep in a cave on Formentera …
Before the draft for the Vietnam War called, Chris Faiers was a shy bookworm. But he read his Kerouac, and when the draft notices kept coming, “Canadian Chris” hit the dharma road feet first and didn’t look back for three years.
A review by Honey Novick
The touch of the book “Eel Pie Island Dharma” is beautiful and smooth and instantly becomes part of the hands holding it. That’s the way it felts to me as it grew to be an extension of me, the reader. I thought I would read this incrementally. That didn’t happen. As I got into Chris’ story of hippie remembrance, I took myself on to the road Chris travelled and journeyed with him to England in the 1960’s and 1970’s. For me the personal journey was American and Canadian but the sensibility of being young and anti-war and curious and intelligent and creative is the same. I could not put this book down and cancelled most of the appointments I had the day I read this book. The writing is fluid as we go to the commune and the pubs and the orgies and nights under the stars. Chris’ love of life and writing is clear as with this book he becomes a spokesperson for a generation. Kudos also to his publisher for encouraging the telling of this important part of history. Bravo Chris and readers for embarking on a tale that leads to friendships and knowledge and greater understanding of time universal and seemingly unchanging.