"Be Love Now: The Path of the Heart," by Ram Dass with Rameshwar Das (HarperOne, $27.99)
Dass, then known as LSD pioneer Dr. Richard Alpert, met guru Maharajji in 1967 and got his mind blown. Since then the Maui resident has pursued various avenues of spiritualism in a hellbent effort to feel "divine love." Like many Westerners excited about Eastern philosophy, his latent reaction was to found a corporation and foundations and dictate best-seller self-helpers. His 1971 memoir, "Be Here Now," was — and is — a seminal milestone in the big business of self-help.
"Be Love Now" is a kind of rambling and much more autobiographical sequel which looks back on those days when his philosophical tenets were being underpinned and his life altered course. It’s not particularly insightful, as Dass is more concerned with others than himself, but if the notion of mountaintop mysticism appeals to you, wading though these pages might help define your theosophical path.
"Zen and the Art of Surfing," by Greg Gutierrez (Julian Paz Foundation, $14.95)
Now in its 11th printing but just now in broader circulation, surfer/writer/artist Gutierrez’s collection of short stories have a primal, direct kick to them, a roiling undertow of emotion beneath a glassy, smooth surface of minimalist writing. Many of the stories are only a couple of pages and read like anecdotes or instructive fables. Some of the stories are set in Hawaii; all deal with that primal, surrounding surge we call the sea. Blood and salt water are not that different.
Many of Gutierrez’s pieces feel autobiographical, and he’s pretty good at inserting countertwists at the denouement. His way with words is crystalline and fat-free. I have the feeling he’s not a wave hog.
"East Meets West" and "Above the Clouds," by Franklin "Frankie" Kam (Xlibris, $19.99 each)
Self-publishing via print-on-demand houses has been an absolute boon to budding authors needing stocking stuffers for family members. Frankie Kam is a relentless old-school rhymer of the moon-june-spoon school who never lets sentence structure put a damper on his word-melody, an obsessive poet who get lines out of the most mundane of everyday subjects. Consider: "I give you shrug / You seem so smug / I want your kiss / You I so miss …"
All that’s missing is the ukulele melody. To his credit, Kam has a peculiar and strict outline for all his poems that he sticks to, as rigid as haiku and as formatted as a limerick. And he’s certainly not afraid to focus on the phantasmagoria in modern life: "Linda Lingle, do salute / Hawaii woman governor, toot / Born June 4, 1953 year / Saint Louis, Missouri, cheer / Good cheerleader, so upbeat."
I’m not sure how good a poet Mr. Kam is, but he’s probably a fantastic toastmaster.