Paine, Jeffery 1944–
Paine, Jeffery 1944–
PERSONAL: Born April 8, 1944, in Houston, TX; son of Leon and Blanche Paine. Ethnicity: "Caucasian." Education: Rice University, B.A; Princeton University, Ph.D.
ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Agent—Molly Friedrich, Aaron Priest Literary Agency, 708 3rd Ave., New York, NY 10017.
CAREER: Wilson Quarterly, Washington, DC, began as literary editor, became contributing editor, 1989–2005. Taught at Princeton University, New School for Social Research, and Volksuniversiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands; East-West Center, Honolulu, HI, visiting fellow; member of panel of judges for Pulitzer Prize. Performance artist.
MEMBER: National Book Critics Circle (past vice president).
Father India: How Encounters with an Ancient Culture Transformed the Modern West, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
(Editor) The Poetry of Our World: An International Anthology of World Poetry, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2000.
Re-enchantment: Tibetan Buddhism Comes to the West, W.W. Norton and Co. (New York, NY), 2004.
Adventures with the Buddha: A Personal Buddhism Reader, W.W. Norton and Co. (New York, NY), 2005.
(And performer) Oh My God! The History of Religion in an Hour (solo show), first produced in Washington, DC, at Smithsonian Institution, 2006.
Contributor to periodicals, including USA Today, New York Times, Washington Post, Nation, New Republic, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, and Los Angeles Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Jeffery Paine's book Father India: How Encounters with an Ancient Culture Transformed the Modern West is a collection of biographies of well-known late nineteenth- and twentieth-century U.S. and European figures who sought enlightenment in and from India. Included are British reformers Annie Besant and Lord Curzon; writers E.M. Forster, William Yeats, V.S. Naipaul, Allen Ginsberg, and Christopher Isherwood; and thinkers Carl Jung and Martin Luther King, Jr. Each of these individuals was a pilgrim looking for meaning in his or her own politics, religion, and identity. One such case cited by Paine is that of British novelist Forster, who was conflicted over his homosexuality and entered into a physical relationship with the maharajah's barber. Citing the discussion of Forster as Father India's "most vigorous (and amusing) chapter," Alexandra Lange wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Forster "might never have written another novel, and certainly not A Passage to India, if not for his daily 'grooming' sessions." "If you wanted to be terrifically shallow, you could just read Jeffery Paine's seemingly scholarly book for the sex," Lange added. "Or the lack thereof. Never was there such an effusion of Protestant guilt and sublimated libido…. There are pedophiles and couples in 'spiritual marriages,' princes who like dirty jokes and writers who try not to touch another Indian. It's a rogue's gallery of sexual dysfunction, and Paine seems only too happy to dish."
Many other writers and thinkers were greatly affected by their encounter with India's diverse cultures. Jung returned to Switzerland with new outlooks into the individual psyche and the collective unconsciousness, but not before spending considerable time in a hospital with dysentery. Novelist Naipaul received literary praise upon returning to Trinidad and writing of his search for his ethnic identity. Yeats wove meditation and reincarnation into his tapestry of ideas, but he never actually visited India. Besant went to India in 1893 to study Hinduism. Isherwood later cited the high point of his stay in India as reading Willa Cather; in reviewing Paine's take on that confession, a Kirkus contributor called Isherwood "sex-crazed…. The inevitable result of these lost souls' superficial forays was the vulgarization of Eastern religion." Apart from Paine's discussion of U.S. civil rights leader King and King's adoption of Gandhi's theory of nonviolence, the Kirkus Reviews critic opined that Paine failed to show how Western thought was transformed by Indian thought, instead demonstrating "how several eccentrics misappropriated and misrepresented Indian culture."
A Publishers Weekly reviewer called "a little less convincing" the last section of the book which traces philosophies from César Chávez and King to Gandhi, back to Thoreau and the Upanishads. "What precedes it is a smart demonstration of the mix of expectation and experience that cross-fertilized many fascinating private lives," David Cline said in Booklist. The reviewer added that the impressions and conclusions of these people were translated through their politics and spirituality, but often were understood through an inner transformation which is more difficult to define. Cline said Paine "does a bang-up job of providing the definitions."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, October 15, 1998, David Cline, review of Father India: How Encounters with an Ancient Culture Transformed the Modern West.
Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 1998, review of Father India.
New York Times Book Review, December 20, 1998, Alexandra Lange, review of Father India.
Publishers Weekly, October 12, 1998, review of Father India, p. 64.