The Monk and the Riddle


Randy Komisar


Nonfiction / Autobiography


Date Reviewed:

August 4, 2004

The Monk and the Riddle is written for the old boys network, for the lucky few who have life so good that they can choose their career. Komisar's message is that you should not defer what you want to do, you should do what you want to do NOW. It's a carpe diem message, and that isn't bad. Of course, if you are like 95% of the working stiffs in the world who don't have the connections and talent or wealth to pick their career, well that doesn't seem to enter into the equation. Not everyone can be a CEO or a big cheese lawyer. I could give up my engineering job and try to make a career as an artist, but the truth is I don't have any chance of surviving with my level of talent. I have to defer what I want to do, or else the bank will repossess my house.

There are a couple of paragraphs late in the book that made me laugh: "Both Debra and I were home for dinner for once. As she sorted through the mail, I rallied every pan in the house. With a bottle of Napa Valley sauvignon blanc, we ate outside as the sun set without a fuss. Later that evening, I sank into my leather chair with a book by the thirteenth century Zen master Dogen, my quiet house open to the light breeze stealing in off the hills. The low timpani of snoring dogs signaled that the world was just fine." As I read this, I thought - here is a man desperate to impress everyone! The book was written with the help of Kent Lineback, but I guarantee Mr Lineback did not write those paragraphs. According to dictionary.com, timpani is a set of kettle drums. Alternate definition: "a large hemispherical brass or copper percussion instrument with a drumhead that can be tuned by adjusting the tension on it"

I work at a startup telecom company, and I was given this book by a friend who also works there. I think he liked the inside view of the Venture Capitalist world. The copyright on the book is 2000, which means Komisar was writing during the bubble days of '99, and everyone is making money on fragile internet companies. No doubt Mr Komisar and his pals all got out with plenty of dough before the bubble popped and the non-insider investors lost their savings.

Other than imparting the insight that a person should not defer their life plan, there isn't much other material here. We do hear about Mr Komisar's time as CEO of Crystal, which is a struggling game company. It struggles and Mr Komisar decides to quit when a female sneers that "You're in the f***ing game business".

"Her words jolted me like a hammer to my not-so-sober head"

"I hardly played games as a kid. I'd never played a video game all the way through. There always seemed to be something more important to do. I liked sports, because there was a beauty in physical prowess. But games to me always seemed to be a distraction. I was definitely not a gamer."

Okay, Mr Komisar is not a gamer. But later in the book, he describes an earlier stint at LucasArt Entertainment, where he is CEO of the game division. And he loves being CEO of LucasArts! We get lots of paragraphs of how fun it is to work there, surrounded by driven talented passionate people. No complaints then about games just being a distraction. Anyway, Komisar quits Crystal as CEO.

If this book hadn't been so short, I would not have finished. Nothing to read here. You would be better of spending time reading the works of Dogen, the thirteenth century Zen Master, or better yet, playing video games.