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Item #: BK1376-953
VIRTUAL TIBET: SEARCHING FOR SHANGRI-LA FROM THE HIMALAYAS TO HOLLYWOOD Orville Schell 2001 Softcover Near Fine
By Schell, Orville
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New York, Owl Books, 2001. 340 pp. Used softcover. Near Fine

A pithy, insightful examination of the fascination that Tibet and the Dalai Lama have for non-Tibetans, and most colorfully, for Hollywood.  The Dalai Lama! The Beastie Boys! Prayer wheels! Lost Horizon! Brad Pitt! Schell (Mandate of Heaven), a prolific China expert and the dean of UC-Berkeley's journalism school, has produced a fluent, enlightening, well-researched and often disillusioning chronicle of Tibet and "Tibet"--the first a real place of high mountains and Buddhist tradition, the second a Western image of the place, presented in memoirs, films, T-shirts and benefit concerts from Marco Polo to Kundun and beyond. Schell begins with his first visit to the real Tibet in 1981, fills in his readers with relevant history and belief, then moves to Hollywood, where the Dalai Lama has become "a warmhearted, even cuddly religious icon."

Schell meets and evaluates "self-styled Tibetan Buddhist[s] in the Hollywood pantheon," from Richard Gere, who appears impressively dedicated, to Steven Seagal, who comes off here as secretive and egomaniacal and who claims to be a reincarnated lama. The author travels to Austria to interview former SS member Heinrich Harrer, who wrote the book Seven Years in Tibet. And--after much effort--he reaches the Argentinean location where the Brad Pitt vehicle based on Harrer's book is being shot: there he finds a dedicated director, fake lamas, real llamas and quite real, somewhat disoriented, Tibetans. After neat historical digressions, Schell returns to the present-day triangle of Hollywood-China-Tibet: noting that neither Tibet movie made much money, Schell concludes that both China and Hollywood "had occupied Tibet [and] found it disappointingly indigestible. Unfortunately, only Hollywood showed signs of... retreat."  


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