HARD TRAVEL TO SACRED PLACES by Rudolph Wurlitzer

HARD TRAVEL TO SACRED PLACES

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A Southeast Asia travelogue that looks for spiritual sustenance but instead finds distraction in spiritual tourism and lengthy quotation. Accompanied by his wife, photographer Lynn Davis, Wurlitzer (Slow Fade, 1984, and author of the screenplay for Bertolucci's film Little Buddha) takes the reader, in maddeningly desultory fashion, to Thailand, Burma (now known as Myanmar), and Cambodia. The motive for the trip is to mourn the accidental death of Davis's 21-year-old son. Wurlitzer desperately wants to convey the course of an inner, rather than an outer, journey--but he fails. Apparently believing that all quotations are equally self- explanatory and useful, he jump-cuts his narrative with anything he comes across: from a Buddhist quote to a newspaper account of a Buddhist monk ``caught having sex with a female corpse in a coffin at a Samut Prakan Temple'' in Bangkok. It takes a while for Wurlitzer to realize that their spiritual journey has been a failure. ``We seem to be locked into movement for its own sake, as if by constantly changing the outside we will in some way encourage a realization within of the truth of impermanence.'' The same, sadly, might be said for the reader, who has had to wade through descriptions of this couple's trek through capitalist Thailand, particularly Patpong (the sex district); a Thai princess's birthday party; a shorthand account of politics in Burma; and visits to many of the famous Buddhist temples, including Cambodia's Angkor Wat. But by the end, the two travelers are physically weakened and not spiritually strengthened. The only thing ``hard'' about this travel might be that they felt they had to undergo it at all. A disjointed pastiche of Buddhist touchstones, Southeast Asian politics and temple lore, and personal expressions of grief. Go elsewhere for all four.

Pub Date: Aug. 5th, 1994
ISBN: 1-57062-024-5
Page count: 142pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1994




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