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Thursday, July 19th, 2007

Time Event
4:03p
you were wondering, weren't you?
So, another book after a long delay. I usually have 3 books being juggled between various spots and briefcases, and sometimes, like the previous three books, they all synch up to get finished at pretty much the same time, meaning that I'm starting three new ones all at once, leading to a reasonably long gap between reviews.

Anyway, after nearly a 2-week hiatus, another one bites the dust, as it were. This, Sacred Journeys: An Illustrated Guide to Pilgrimages Around the World by Jennifer Westwood is a bit of an odd duck, which is likely the reason that I found it at the dollar store a few years back. I'm sure that this looked like a lovely project when the author and her friends were thinking it up, but unless you're really into pilgrimages, it's a strange read.

The book is about pilgrimage as a concept, as a literary thread, and as a travel modality. The main body of the book is set up in chapters which discuss the "stages" that one would go through were one to be going on a pilgrimage, in 12 chapters from "Longing" to "Coming Home". Each chapter also includes one to three 2-page "interludes" discussing a particular pilgrimage, written by somebody connected to that region. These 25 stories do not seem to be specifically keyed to the "stage" at hand, so have the feeling of having been randomly "tossed" into the book, and, frankly, make reading through it a bit jumpy. I ended up settling on a system of reading the "inserts" first, then the chapter, then moving to the next "inserts". The book also has a second part "A Guide To Sacred Places" which has brief over-views to an additional 40 pilgrimage sites, followed by a "Resources" section which provides contact and basic visiting information for many of the sites covered.

One gets that the author has been to a whole lot of interesting places (having traveled through Iran, etc., when that region was still exhibiting some sort of sanity), and would dearly like to go visit even more. Again, as various bits and pieces are pulled from other contributors, it's never crystal clear who is relating their travel experiences as one moves through the book. By the end, I was a bit tired of hearing of yet another "Mary" shrine, but I guess that's what one finds in Europe (Westwood is British). There were some major Buddhist shrines, however, that I was surprised that I had not heard of, so it wasn't all slanted to the Xtian mythos!

The availability on Sacred Journeys seems a bit confusing. The large-format hardcover edition I have (from Holt) seems to be out of print, but available for under a buck for a "good" copy, and a bit over three bucks for a "like new" copy via the Amazon new/used guys. There is another hardcover edition also listed (for $35 new, $10 used), which does seem to still be in print, so this might be available via your local book vendor. Frankly, I'd go with the used on the big one if this sounds like something you'd want to get.


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