SLEEPING IN CAVES: A Sixties Himalayan Memoir

Marilyn Stablein, Author . Monkfish $16 (198p) ISBN 978-0-9726357-0-7

In 1965, Stablein (The Census Taker), then an 18-year-old Berkeley art student, set out on a summer jaunt to Paris. Her European tour became a seven-year wander through India and Nepal. Stablein roamed the subcontinent as a sort of spiritual tourist: moving with the seasons, cooking local dishes, imbibing local hallucinogens and making pilgrimages to holy caves, rivers and, with Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass), to see the Dalai Lama. Her travelogue is strikingly self-absorbed: her musings on chai (Asian spiced tea), dung beetles, leeches and an ice lingam are detailed and sometimes intriguing and humorous, but there's a paucity of information about the people she encounters. Even Stablein's boyfriend, with whom she lived throughout, remains a blank, except for a short reminiscence as Stablein prepares to leave him. The effect is claustrophobic and meandering, although the book briefly coalesces in the chapter "Turning the Wheel," where the author writes, "My path circles, fans out like ripples from a stone tossed into a pond." The book ends rather abruptly when Stablein is deported from India, moves to Nepal, marries an American, gives birth to two children, decides Katmandu is too dirty for infants and flies back to San Francisco. In her preface, Stablein writes, "There are times when I ask myself, What am I doing here?" Her immediate answer is that she's there for art, culture and spirituality. But she provides a more convincing (though indirect) reason after giving birth to her son: "Mother is home... I don't need to travel any more. I'm already home." (Sept.)

Reviewed on: 06/30/2003
Release date: 01/01/2003
Genre: Nonfiction
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