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“A book must start somewhere. One brave letter must volunteer to go first, laying itself on the line in an act of faith, from which a word takes heart and follows, drawing a sentence into its wake. From there, a paragraph amasses, and soon a page, and the book is on its way, finding a voice, calling itself into being. A book must start somewhere, and this one starts here.”

So begins Ruth Ozeki’s new novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, which follows the story of a young boy, Benny Oh, who starts hearing voices after his father’s death. In this poignant exploration of grief, Ozeki weaves together Zen Buddhism, pop culture, environmental politics, and the writings of German philosopher Walter Benjamin—not to mention a cacophony of voices that calls into question our understanding of what is “real.”

In this episode of Tricycle Talks, Tricycle’s editor-in-chief James Shaheen sits down with Ozeki to reflect on the redemptive power of writing, the interplay between creativity and madness, and relational modes of healing.

Tricycle Talks is a podcast series featuring leading voices in the contemporary Buddhist world. You can listen to more Tricycle Talks on Spotify, iTunes, SoundCloud, Stitcher, and iHeartRadio.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about our podcast. Write us at feedback@tricycle.org.

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