SAVAGE PILGRIMS by Henry Shukman

SAVAGE PILGRIMS

On the Road to Santa Fe
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Shukman tells us what he did on his summer vacation in the wilds of New Mexico. Shukman (Travels with My Trombone, 1993, etc.) closes his loosely connected trilogy of books on travels in Latin America with this report of a sojourn in Spain's northernmost outpost in the New World. The writing is competent, but the adventures Shukman reports are a bit humdrum, and playing the daffy foreign tourist in cowboy bars and having dreams of being given secret names by mysterious Indians are clichÇs of the southwestern travel genre. As he wanders by bus from Alamogordo to Taos, from Socorro to Las Vegas, he nurses memories of lost love, engages in a tryst with an Italian tourist, goes trout fishing with a well-connected movie producer, and visits with the Buddhist sage and writer Natalie Goldberg--episodes that are all meaningful to the author, of course, but that are not rendered with enough force or novelty to make the narrative especially meaningful to others. Many Southwesterners will feel, too, that Shukman hasn't quite got the details right (New Mexicans don't say ``youse'' for the second person, to note one small example). As befits a British traveler in the region, Shukman often invokes the spirit of D.H. Lawrence, whom he pegs as ``an uneasy sick man with an eye to his public image.'' Shukman writes well and easily about his life on familiar ground--his memories of the hippie ethos of early 1970s England are a hoot--and as the book progresses he clearly becomes more assured about his observations and has more interesting things to say about being ``on the road in America.'' Ultimately, he emerges as a sympathetic and likable character. Still, readers familiar with New Mexico won't learn anything new here, and those who are unfamiliar with the area won't likely follow Shukman's idiosyncratic route across the Land of Enchantment.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1997
ISBN: 1-56836-170-X
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Kodansha
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997




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