Books Acquired:
Hubner, John and Lindsey Gruson, Monkey on a Stick

Progress Made:
Bruce Chatwin, The Songlines
Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman
Stefan Zweig, Messages from a Lost World

Books Finished:
Hubner, John and Lindsey Gruson, Monkey on a Stick

I was on the road a lot this month, and when traveling it’s important to have something to read that’s absorbing without being too intellectually demanding. In this case that role was filled by Monkey on a Stick, which I picked up from a free library box in… Alameda, I think it was?

Subtitled “Murder, Madness, and the Hare Krishnas,” Monkey is “a sensational and scandalous exposé,” says the NYT blurb on the back. “Violence, terror, and exploitation… a riveting read!” adds the Washington Post. The cover copy doubles down:

Child abuse, sadistic torture, white slavery, drug pushing, arson, arms running, and even wholesale murder. These are some of the unspeakable atrocities committed by the Hare Krishna movement in the name of religion!

The book itself is not quite that breathless, and almost 50 pages of notes testify to the research that went into it. But it does not shy away from the lurid details and moves along smartly, making it a very successful airport and airplane read. It has more than its share of editing and proofreading errors, and sentences sometimes end in an exclamation mark for no reason! But what do you want for nothing, a rubber biscuit?

Having served its purpose, Monkey on a Stick will now go into the free box at the Coffee Break, hopefully to perform a similar service for another restless traveler. That makes June a net zero for book acquisition, and don’t I feel smug? Progress on other fronts was pretty sparse, but I have high hopes for July, which looks to be sunnier and more sedentary.

Before wrapping up, though, I want to share a sentence from The Third Policeman, which I have been enjoying very much in a slow, languorous sort of way. One of the fun things about it is the many references to a philosopher called de Selby, who is much beloved by the narrator despite being, by all appearances, a complete idiot. At one point the following quote is attributed to another fictional author, du Garbandier:

The beauty of reading a page of de Selby is that it leads one inescapably to the happy conviction that one is not, of all nincompoops, the greatest.

And isn’t that a good feeling? Have a great weekend, and happy birthday America, you lovable nincompoop you.