TRACKING THE SERPENT: Journeys to Four Continents by Janine Pommy Vega

TRACKING THE SERPENT: Journeys to Four Continents

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this loosely unified collection, poet Vega visits not four but three continents and produces a rambling but brave-hearted account of her exploits. Pursuing evidence of a neolithic earth goddess, she alights in the English countryside, where she treks to ancient towers and earthworks and engages in a brief, romantic fling with an eager innkeeper whose wife similarly espouses open marriage. Following sidetrips to Ireland and a quick visit to Chartres, the reader is whisked to the Peruvian Amazon, where Vega visits a former convict she encountered while on a prison visit years before, who now lives in a bug-infested backwater. Our adventurer learns, among other things, how to ward off mosquitoes while relieving herself, engages in an intense affair with a handsome ex-drug trafficker, and tops off her trip in fine, hallucinogenic style by consuming the local yage. Two years later, returning to Peru, she keeps to the high ground, trekking through the Andes with a group of guides (her sexual advances rebuffed), avoiding Shining Path guerillas, and severely testing her stamina. Yet this romp is nothing compared to her next journey, to Nepal. After arriving in Kathmandu, Vega hires a guide for a treacherous climb through the Himalayas. Twice plunging ahead of her sullenly uncooperative companion, she finds herself on perilous outcroppings. Determined to avoid a group of obnoxious tourists, she crosses a 17,000-foot pass during a snowstorm. Cropping up at odd intervals are discussions about female energy, Vega's sexual intensity and evaluations of her consorts' talents, and other arcana that are treated with such brevity (there's a one-sentence account of a miscarriage in a bathroom) that the reader can't care. While Vega's is a likable voice, her narrative never rises above the self-indulgent, unfocused standard that seems to have become the norm for the recent outpouring of travel adventures.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1997
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: City Lights