Four Men Shaking (Paperback)

Searching for Sanity with Samuel Beckett, Norman Mailer, and My Perfect Zen Teacher

By Lawrence Shainberg

Shambhala, 9781611807295, 144pp.

Publication Date: July 16, 2019

List Price: 16.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


From Pushcart Prize-winning author Lawrence Shainberg, a funny and powerful memoir about literary friendships, writing, and Zen practice.

“Inexplicably good karma”—to this, author Lawrence Shainberg attributes a life filled with relationships with legendary writers and renowned Buddhist teachers. In Four Men Shaking he weaves together the narratives of three of those relationships: his literary friendships with Samuel Beckett and Norman Mailer, and his teacher-student relationship with the Japanese Zen
master Kyudo Nakagawa Roshi. In Shainberg’s lifelong pursuit of both writing and Zen practice, each of these men represents an important aspect of his experience. The audacious, combative Mailer becomes a symbol in Shainberg’s mind for the Buddhist concept of “form,” while the elusive and self-deprecating Beckett seems to embody an awareness of “emptiness.” Through it all is Nakagawa, the earthy, direct Zen master challenging Shainberg to let go of his endless rumination and accept reality as it is

About the Author

Lawrence Shainberg is the author of the celebrated memoir Ambivalent Zen as well as the nonfiction book Brain Surgeon: An Intimate View of His World. He has published three novels—Crust, One on One, and Memories of Amnesia—and his fiction and journalism have appeared in Esquire, Harper’s Magazine, Tricycle, and The New York Times Magazine. He is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize for a monograph on Samuel Beckett, published in The Paris Review.

Praise For Four Men Shaking: Searching for Sanity with Samuel Beckett, Norman Mailer, and My Perfect Zen Teacher

Four Men Shaking felt to this reader a deeply necessary utterance, one effortlessly delivered after decades of rigorous preparation. By the time I finished it I was a fifth man shaking, and with gratitude.” – Jonathan Lethem, author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Feral Detective

“Shainberg has done the impossible: taken three entirely different lives and woven them together so they form a fourth—an honest, wide-eyed but sage narrator who can both thumb-wrestle and meditate. The book combines humor and wisdom in an original and totally engaging
narrative.”—John Skoyles, author of A Moveable Famine and Secret Frequencies: A New York Education