An Obese White Gentleman in No Apparent Distress
Based on the life of unconventional aikido master Terry Dobson, this novel by his partner Riki Moss is the story of two souls meeting at a mutually calamitous turning point in their lives. Fatherless and pushed by his tyrannical mother to the edge of violence, Dobson turns to aikido to save his life. Twenty-five years later, he returns to the wreckage of his ancestral summer home on Lake Champlain feeling too tainted to train, too blocked to write, and too dispirited to deal with his declining health. He seriously considers disappearing into the icy waters, but instead drives through an ice storm and hits a cow in a cornfield where an artist is chasing her dog . . .
Told through two interwoven timelines—one following his life through Park Avenue and the Bowery, Vermont, Japan, and California; the other tracking his relationship with the artist—this profoundly entertaining novel features a memorable assortment of seekers and gurus (real and fictional), spiritual dogs, performance artists, psychic plumbers, New Age healers, suicidal parents, old lovers; Ronald Reagan, Robert Bly, Leonard Cohen, Ram Dass; and the land itself, as compelling as any character.
About the Author
Dobson (1937-1992) was a pioneering American aikido teacher and writer and one of the few Western practitioners who studied directly under the founder of aikido, Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). This memoir draws upon Dobson's extensive body of tape recordings and unpublished writings. He is the author of Aikido in Everyday Life and It's a Lot Like Dancing, published by North Atlantic/Blue Snake Books.
—Robert Bly, author of Iron John: A Book About Men
"Riki Moss debuts with a wonderfully original comic novel about art both fine and martial, about self-betrayal and redemption through love, beautifully written and full of memorable characters. Her louche, bohemian Vermont is captured in full color, like Anne Tyler's Baltimore and Richard Russo's upstate New York."
—Michael Gruber, New York Times bestselling author of The Forgery of Venus
and The Book of Air and Shadows
"Our fantasy of a martial artist is usually of an exotic warrior: impeccably controlled, shifting between poles of cryptic wisdom and profound silence. Riki Moss gives us an only slightly fictionalized account of a real martial artist—a giant Falstaff of a man, his flaws as enormous as his gifts. Aikido is a martial art that purports to reconcile others, to establish peace. How much more illuminating to read of a man who, rather than one of those blow-dried fighting sages, actually needed the teaching himself."
—Ellis Amdur, author of Dueling with O-sensei
"Read the stories of two 'warriors'—an extraordinary and charismatic man and the feisty woman who loves him—open-hearted characters who meet toward the end of his life and live these years together passionately and as richly as possible. Powerful, earthy, funny and spiritual."
—Jane Pincus, co-author of Our Bodies, Ourselves