"This excerpt is part of an attempt, early in the book, to place Philip Whalen in the context of his friends and peers. A number of these friends became well-known—even famous—writers; Whalen did not. In conversation, it has proved a helpful if unsatisfying resort to list a few such friends. Helpful because many more people in the world have heard of Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Gary Snyder than have heard of Philip Whalen. It’s unsatisfying because Philip disliked being thought of as a “friend of the great,” and because he was a unique, powerful poet and prose stylist in his own right, and beyond that because he studied, practiced, and taught Zen Buddhism formally for 30 years with inspiring sincerity and humor. He played a real role in the 20th century establishment of Zen in America.
"On the other hand, he was a loyal, engaged friend to his friends. He visited them when he could and wrote to them when he couldn’t. He thought about them a great deal, and told them, often in writing, innermost thoughts. He seems generally to have received the same consideration in return. For the biographer, Whalen’s friendships have been a lucky place to look.
"The chapter does not proceed completely chronologically. After an overview of the friendship, it follows a structure of body, speech, and mind. This division of human experience has served Buddhist philosophers for centuries, especially in analyzing karma, action. While Buddhism (strictly speaking) eschews the notion of a solid, personal “existence,” it has turned out to be useful in explaining things to portray the physical elements of a person or situation, the communicative elements and attitudinal backgrounds. Thus the chapter moves from chronicling time Snyder and Whalen spent together physically, to a look at their correspondence, to a sketch of their shared states of mind."