bookrev: The Cutting Season by Arthur Rosenfeld
An excellent example of martial arts fiction
Most readers (or watchers of movies/TV) have preconceived notions about martial arts: it’s violent (UFC, Pride); it’s hokey (chop suey martial arts movies with bad sound tracks); it’s mystical (warriors flying through the air like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which is an excellent movies, BTW).
What martial artists enjoy (or at least what I enjoy) about the martial arts is the integration of mind, body and spirit. And this is not something that is solely the realm of martial artists; dancers, yoga practitioners, even piano players and other musicians experience the clarity of thought when mind, body and spirit come together. Most media representations either show too much fighting (body), too much mysticism (spirit), or simply miss the mark by representing a martial artist as a one-dimensional human.
Arthur Rosenfeld’s new book The Cutting Season gets the balance right. It is classified as “martial arts fiction”; rightly so.
The story begins with a doctor who is sometimes a martial arts practitioner, and ends with the man being a martial artist, integrating the concepts of martial arts throughout his life, not just on the side.
It is the story of Dr. Xenon Pearl, a neurosurgeon (yes, my son, the brain surgeon!) who was trained in the martial arts from an early age by his Chinese nanny, Wu Tie Mei, who’s death is mysterious until the end of the book. Wu Tie Mei begins appearing to Zee (Xenon), and initially he puts it off to lack of sleep and general stress. But he slowly realizes that he needs to be on a path, a path that he has been on as a warrior in previous lives; this could be cliche’ (there are no coincidences, everything happens for a reason) and there are moments in the book when Zee’s re-transformation is too easy (an average human would react differently in a situation). Rosenfeld handles this journey, this metamorphosis, very well.
Mr. Rosenfeld’s descriptions and dialog are best when lessons are being given. It is easy to see that he is a martial arts instructor:
“Stretch is twenty percent in your legs, eighty percent in your mind,” I said.
“My mind is saying my body hurts.”
“You mind believes your body is a torso with arms sticking out the top and legs sticking out the bottom. Big mistake. The spine is the only hard piece connecting the top and bottom halves of you; the truth is you’ve got two separate entities to work with, limited only by that bony link. Your top half can do one thing while your bottom half does another, just the way you can learn to chew gun and walk at the same time. Realizing this is very freeing. It opens up a whole world of possibilities.”
Kind of like realizing that you really can play point and counterpoint with your two different hands on the piano, true?
My only peeve on the novel is that different meaningless characters were brought into the story, and, at the time they were brought in, I found them distracting (the Miami Dolphi fullback Derringer, for example). But Mr. Rosenfeld brings most of the characters back into the story later, weaving them into the journey of Xenon/Zee as he remembers who he has always been and returns to the path.
Highly recommended, and not just for martial artists. This is a well written story that all will enjoy.