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July 15, 1978 - Image 8

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1978-07-15

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Page 8-Saturday, July 15, 1978The Michigan Daily
Paradise Lost,
never regained
Perdido, by Jill Robinson
Alfred A. Knopf, 431 pp., $9.95
By Barbara Zahs
"M ORNINGS HOME at Perdido," Sus-
anna Howard says as the novel opens
in 1950, "are like movie mornings where
Jeanne Crain gallps across a meadow to the
loveliest sprightly music." And Perdido is
like the sweetest of Hollywood novels-lots
of lovely backgrounds, a plot full of twists,
but it evades the questions that could have .
made this a more interesting novel and is
nothing more than a fairy tale, minus the
happy ending.
Like author Jill (herself the daughter of
author Dore Schary) Robinson, Susanna is
related to the uncrowned royalty of
Southern California. Susanna's grandfather
was movie mogul Victor Levanin; her step-
father now runs the studio Levanin founded
("into the ground" Susanna remembers her
grandfather sniping about her stepfather's
Life at home is a classic case of affluent
alienation. Her mother is the type of woman
"who would die to have her picture in
Vogue." Her stepfather appers ephemeral.
And the geography of Perdido, the family
mansion, lends itself well to physical
alienation. "I think Perdido has twenty-two
rooms. Sometimes I lie awake and try to
count in my head-always comes out dif-
ferent," Susanna explains.
Susanna opts for the time-honored escape
from alienation-fantasy. She is pretending
to be Susanna Midnight, cape flying as she
rides her bicycle into her backyard swim-
ming pool when she first catches sight of ac-
tor Jackson Lane, a man who will change
her life.
Unlike her parents, the glamorous actor
pays attention to the lonely 14-year old.
While it's not uncommon in Hollywood Ifor
grownrmen to spend time with adolescents,
all recognition is apparently unknown to
Susanna. After the pair spend a day
together, Susanna is overcome by the
thought of this man. Her next step is to lap-
se into continuing reverie about the times
they could share. At 14, Susanna is clever
if not reflective. She knows Jackson Lane
was formerly her mother's lover and pon-
ders the moral question whether it's wrong
for her to be in love with her mother's ex-
Susanna is the last, however, to learn the
predictable truth; Jackson Lane is her
father. Prior to that discovery, however,
she has become determined to find him
and make her persistent fantasy come true,
to recreate the magical day they spent
together. That search, over the next ten
years, forms the bulk of the novel.
SUSANNA BEGINS her pursuit of Jack-
son Lane at age 18 in 1954. Even with
knowledge that Lane is her father, however,
Susanna is curiously unreflective about her
own motivation; neither the obvious
Oedipidal attraction nor the search for roots
is ever discussed -or analyzed. Birds gotta
fly, fish gotta swim, and Susanna gotta find

On the road to I

story and photos by
Al Hrapsky
Come you back to Mandalay,
Where the old Flotilla lay:
Can't you 'ear their paddles chunkin'
From Rangoon to Mandalay?
Rudyard Kipling, Mandalay
"A RE YOU CARRYING any foreign cur-
rencies, jewels, camera, or calculators?",
the customs officer asked. I produced my Canon
camera and a worn $20 bill. "Thank you," he
said. "Too many tourists try to smuggle foreign
goods into Burma and sell them for profit." As I
turned to walk away the officer added, "Would
you like to sell your Time magazine?"
Hurdling a pile of declaration forms I finally
stepped outside into the cool morning air to hire
a Rangoon-bound cab. Before I could drop my
bags, however, a dozen vulturous cabbies ac-
costed me like fickle fans attacking John
Travolta. Attempting to underbid each other
they pushed and pulled me back and forth bet-
ween their respective taxis with bullish deter-
mination. When the bidding reached a
reasonable $1 I freed myself from the wavering
mass and dived into an ancient four-door British
Ambassador. "Welcome to Burma," said the
driver, "want to sell your whiskey and cigaret-
Affectionately known as the Socialist Republic
of the Union of Burma, Burma is not your
average package tour or vacation stop. There
isn't a single Holiday Inn there. There are not
hordes of tourists clicking snapshots and affron-
ting the native culture; fewer tourists visit the
country than most any other nation (some 16,000
in 1973. And Burma is not easy to travel; tran-
sportation is arduous and unreliable and the
government curtly restricts foreigners to seven-
day visas.
To the adventurous, though, Burma is a
myriad of Buddhist pagodas stretching from the
Bay of Bengal to the borders of India,

Bangladesh, Laos, China, and Thailan
Southeast Asia. Completing the final sweep
five month Asian tour I reasoned that Bu
would provide a unique stop between the fra
pace of Bangkok, which I just left, and the c
of India, my next destination. So far my th
was correct.
Chugging and burping its way toward the
and away from the now tranquil mob scene
old taxi passed one antique automobile a
another. Austins, Mercedes, Ambassado
many of World War II vintage-piled the nai
highway. The driver, all smiles now that he
solicited my business, explained that the gc
nment imports very few vehicles. Sinc
manufactures none of its own, he contin
people must repair and maintain their auto
Scores of tea stalls, dilapidated ban
shacks, and groups of smiling naked chill
lined the road while another lazy mile reve
a bell-shaped pagoda. "Shwe Dagon ter
Burma's finest, 326 feet tall," said the dri
Immediately I recognized this massive pa
as the one in my guidebook and realized
Kipling called it a "waking, winking v
der"-the sun's early morning rays transfor
its spire into a brilliant golden reflector.
THE SHWE DAGON is to Buddhists v
Mecca is to Muslims, and pilgrims tr
from all over Asia to worship at the 2800 yea
structure. Legend has it that relics of
Gautama Buddha are enshrined inside.
mere curious travellers like myself, howe
the pure gold slabs forming the spire's u
reaches and a hti, or crown, encrusted with
2000 diamonds were calling enough.
The driver insisted this was the coolest ho
visit the temple, and pulled over. I spurnec
elevator in favor of scaling the seemingly
dless steps leading to the pagoda's platforr
curious sign halted me in my tracks, howe
"Strictly prohibited, umbrella holding and
wearing." Glancing at dozens of unattel
sandals before me and then at the dr
chuckling at my confusion, I realized somet
had been lost in the translation. It is a s
custom to remove your shoes before enteri
Buddhist temple, he asspred me.
Once on top, the Shwe Dagon is like a fig
of Walt Disney's imagination. Over 60 si
spires encircle the "winking wonder"
disciples affectionately surrounding their
priest. Several gold gilded teakwood shrines
resthouses, erected by devote Buddhists as a
of merit, form an outer ring around
Wizened monks, heads cleanly cropped,
ted by like shadows; clouds of perfumed inc
billowed un from bronze offering urns; 1

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