The Angry Buddhist is a mainstream novel by Seth Greenland that will also appeal to many fans of Buddhist fiction. The story revolves around three brothers: Randall Duke is an incumbent Congressman who fakes holding some pretty fundamentalist Christian values to try and win votes, Dale Duke is a criminal just released from prison who likes to speak in rhyme, and Jimmy Ray Duke is an ex-policeman who is receiving online dharma teaching to try and get a grip on his anger issues. As for the plot itself, we obviously don’t want to give anything away, but we can tell you that it involves a murder, blackmail and infidelity – but not necessarily in that order.
As you can imagine, there is plenty of drama here, but the novel is described as a dark comedy, and it lives up to that description on both counts. The Angry Buddhist isn’t the kind of book that you would probably want to give someone of a particularly sensitive disposition because there is quite a bit of sex, violence and political realism involved in the story. Of course, having a character explore Buddhism against such a gritty backdrop makes the ‘dharma moments’ even more rewarding, and illustrates well the struggle that some people face when using Buddhist principles to help them get by in a challenging environment or situation. Greenland is very skilled at packing humour into even the grimmest scenarios, so be prepared to laugh out loud when you least expect it.
It would be unfair on the author to assess The Angry Buddhist as a piece of Buddhist fiction, but as a novel aimed at the mainstream market, it really is superb. Greenland has a talent for establishing rich settings and environments in just a few carefully chosen words, and for anyone who follows American politics it will be hard to ignore seemingly glaring similarities between some of the characters and actual politicians that you will have seen in the headlines over the last few years.
The Angry Buddhist is currently being developed as a television drama series by Showtime, so we can expect the characters to have a much higher profile when they hit the small screen. That said, don’t wait until then to get to know ‘angry Buddhist’ Jimmy Ray Duke and his brothers. Read the novel and prepare to have your expectations blown away like never before…