December 21, 2019

From Gerald R. Lucas

Four Men Shaking: Some Comments and Notes


Currently, I’m reading Lawrence Shainberg’s memoir Four Men Shaking to review for the next volume of The Mailer Review. I’m about half-way through, and I wish I was more engaged with it. It’s well-written and it’s about subjects that engage me—Zen, neuroscience, literary studies, and Norman Mailer—but I’m not as into it as I thought I’d be. I was really into Buddhism and meditation about a year ago, but I feel I’ve forgotten everything I’ve learned. I think I was a bit more clear-eyed when I was meditating. I’m not sure why I stopped. Surely it’s better than taking anti-depressants. Anyway, I feel a bit unqualified to be reviewing this book. I’m sure it will come together, if I can just sit down and finish the damn book.

His memories of Mailer are colorful—so far revolving around the meals they’ve had together at Michael Shay’s in Provincetown. Shainberg paints Mailer as bigger-then-life—not too surprising—and credits The Armies of the Night with inspiring Shainberg’s own interest in journalism.

I think the book revolves around Shainberg and how three other men—his Zen master, Mailer, and Samuel Beckett—have influenced his thinking and approach to life. So far, we’ve seen nothing of Beckett.

To Be Continued. . .



  • "Book Review: Four Men Shaking by Lawrence Shainberg". The Zen Gateway. 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-23. This is less the story of ‘four men shaking’, than of one lay practitioner who struggles mightily—like so many of us—to come to terms with himself.
  • "Four Men Shaking: Searching for Sanity with Samuel Beckett, Norman Mailer, and My Perfect Zen Teacher". Publishers Weekly. July 2019. Retrieved 2019-12-23. Shainberg’s enlightening memoir about three transformative relationships is accessible, deceptively simple, and wise.
  • Taylor, Christopher (July 2019). "New Books". Harper's. Retrieved 2019-12-23. His depictions of the elderly Mailer, who says things like ‘I can’t dominate shrimp anymore,’ suggest that Beckett was right about Shainberg’s gifts as an observer.