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Rudolph Wurlitzer is a screenwriter, novelist, and essayist. He wrote the screenplay for Little Buddha, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. His short fiction and articles have appeared in "Esquire, Atlantic Monthly, Saturday Evening Post, " and "Rolling Stone. " His novel "Nog" is an underground classic.
Wurlitzer, the screenwriter for Bertolucci's Little Buddha, offers a fragmented narrative of a multipurpose fling through Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), and Cambodia. The author and his wife, a photographer on assignment, were mourning the death of his stepson (her son), exploring film projects, seeking spiritual soothing by visiting such sites as Tham Krabok and Angkor Wat, reporting on the sex shows of Bangkok, and apparently writing this book to pay for it all. The text is heavily larded with quotes on Buddhism and newspaper clippings of current events. Wurlitzer's contribution details the couple's fevers and aches-and inoperative hotel plumbing. The result is a superficial view of the area. Many good books are being published on this region and what its cultures can mean to us, for example, Sue Downie's Down Highway One (Allen & Unwin, 1993) and Stan Sesser's The Lands of Charm and Cruelty (LJ 5/1/93). This isn't one of them.-Harold M. Otness, Southern Oregon State Coll. Lib., Ashland
After the untimely death of their 21-year-old son, novelist/screenwriter Wurlitzer ( Little Buddha ) and his wife, photogapher Lynn Davis, embarked on a spiritual journey through Thailand, Burma (now Myanmar) and Cambodia, seeking solace and enlightenment from Buddhist sacred places. They found instead a consumer culture in which material desire has displaced the spiritual center with disastrous consequences for the indigenous practice of Buddhism. By the end of their journey, Wurlitzer and Davis have failed to find the illumination and peace they had so desperately sought. Unfortunately, readers will gain as little from this book as the authors did from their trip, for Wurlitzer's style is pretentious, and his questions, for one who claims to have practiced Buddhism, are sophomoric and self-conscious. Had he remembered that in Buddhism enlightenment comes only after one has forsaken all desire, he might have been able to transcend the physical and spiritual exhaustion that dominated his journey. Since he did not however, his readers are left likewise exhausted and without enlightenment. (Aug.)