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The Book of Zhongli: The Way of the Warrior
Varujan L. Piccard. Interior Solutions, $10.99 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-0-578-41711-0
In his well-meaning if flawed debut, musician Piccard offers aphorisms teaching what he terms Zhongli, or the mastery of self, to find internal peace in a world rife with conflict, struggle, and difficulty. The aphorisms are organized by topics such as strength, discipline, wisdom, temperament, forgiveness, self-governance, and civil obedience. Readers seeking a book of personal philosophy along the lines of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, Confucius’s Analects, or even Machiavelli’s The Prince will find Piccard’s teachings to be a fun homage to them. However, the majority of the aphorisms here read as undifferentiated from their sources: “Power corrupts,” “Familiarity breeds contempt,” “Not all who wander are blind,” “We do not know what we do not know,” and so on. Oftentimes the aphorisms, which sometimes lead into mini-essays, become diffuse and lose connection to one another, giving the litany of phrases a jumbled effect; the result is colder and more impersonal than expected for a text teaching self-cultivation. While these “principles of Zhongli” would have benefited from a stronger voice, they form an intriguing basis for Piccard’s freewheeling spirituality. (BookLife)

Reviewed by Publishers Weekly on 04/05/2019