Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

3.9 61
by Susan Jane Gilman
     
 

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They were young, brilliant, and ambitious. They set out to conquer the world. Instead, the world conquered them.

Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's riveting new memoir is a hilarious and haunting true adventure. It's filled with the memorable characters, psychological insights, and dazzling humor she's known for. Yet it also displays an accomplished

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Overview

They were young, brilliant, and ambitious. They set out to conquer the world. Instead, the world conquered them.

Bestselling author Susan Jane Gilman's riveting new memoir is a hilarious and haunting true adventure. It's filled with the memorable characters, psychological insights, and dazzling humor she's known for. Yet it also displays an accomplished literary eloquence and grandeur of scale that will entertain and enthrall old and new fans alike.

In 1986, fresh out of college, Susan Jane Gilman and her friend Chloe dreamed of hitting the road as modern-day female Kerouacs. Inspired by a placemat at the International House of Pancakes, they mapped out a trip circling the globe, then headed west--to China. At that point in time, the People's Republic had been open to backpackers for barely ten minutes. But Susan and Chloe relished the challenge. Having been told throughout their Ivy League schooling that they were "the future leaders of America," they were eager to boldly take on the world. Unfortunately, the world had other ideas.

Armed only with the collected works of Nietzsche, an astrology book, and more chutzpah than sense, the two quickly found themselves on an epic misadventure. As they trekked off the map into the dusty, alien streets of Communist China, they were quickly stripped of everything familiar. At turns funny, erotic, and harrowing, their journey became a string of poignant encounters with Chinese and Westerners alike. Butit soon grew sinister. The two young women found themselves trapped in their own peculiar Heart of Darkness in the middle of rural China, and what began as a giddy expedition became a real-life international thriller that transformed their lives for forever.

UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN is an astonishing, real-life story of hubris--and redemption--told with tremendous heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Youthfully upbeat, Gilman (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress) delivers an entertaining memoir of her ill-starred attempt to circumnavigate the globe after college graduation in 1986. Eager to embark on life but unsure exactly how to do it, the author, a New Yorker, and her fair-haired Connecticut trust-fund friend, Claire, both graduates from Brown, resolved to backpack around the world for a year and become heroines in their own epic stories. Starting in Hong Kong, the two naïve 21-year-olds, armed with Linda Goodman's Love Signs, volumes of Nietzsche and a year's supply of tampons, ran into shoals fairly immediately, freaked out by fleabag hotels, vermin, importunate fellow travelers and the debilitating effects of illness, homesickness and the sole company of each other. As they roughed it through Communist China, Claire grew increasingly paranoid and delusional, eventually bolting on a bizarre bus trip that got her picked up by the police. Gilman's amusing journey focuses tightly on these first shaky seven weeks, offering the full wallop of disorienting, in-the-moment, transformative travel adventures. (Mar.)

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Library Journal

Part travelog, part mystery, Gilman's latest memoir-after the best-selling Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress-begins in 1986 with the author and a friend studying a placemat at IHOP titled "Pancakes of Many Nations." With more hubris than travel experience, these freshly minted Brown graduates decided to embark on a yearlong, around-the-world backpacking trip, beginning in China. Though they had wonderful experiences, a painful secret led to their undoing. Gilman's work will appeal to those who went in search of an "authentic travel experience" and got more than they bargained for. [See Prepub Alert, LJ11/15/08.]
—Elizabeth Brinkley

Kirkus Reviews
Bestselling memoirist Gilman (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress, 2005, etc.) recalls ill-fated post-collegiate travels. The author's around-the-world backpacking trip began in September 1986 with a perilous nosedive into Hong Kong's international airport that prompted Gilman to reflect on her motives. After growing up poor in inner-city New York, she entered Brown University on a scholarship. When she and her friend Claire Van Houten (a pseudonym) set off to circle the globe following graduation, her motivation was more desire to emulate confident, well-heeled Claire than any personal sense of adventure. The two were eager to undertake rugged exploration in the footsteps of their admired predecessors from Odysseus to Jack Kerouac, "except with lip gloss." They vowed to travel like locals rather than tourists, and the bulk of the book humorously describes their encounters with both squalor and beauty. They ventured headlong into the People's Republic of China, about which they, and the pre-Internet world at large, had little knowledge. Hindsight allows the author to draw comparisons between her journey into adulthood and the growing pains of the newly opened communist nation. Fans of her previous work will enjoy Gilman's latest, but there's little in the way of a story until the final hundred pages, during which the author switches to present tense and her account becomes plot-driven. The tense shift is abrupt, but nothing about the plot trigger-Claire falls ill and has to return home-will come as a surprise, given the heavy-handed clues that have been dropped in advance. A flawed but ambitious and intimate coming-of-age memoir. Author tour to New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, SanFrancisco, Portland, Ore., Seattle
Booklist
On UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN:
"[A] standout travel memoir...Gilman's descriptions of their trials and tribulations crackle with wit."
Alexandra Fuller
"With her trademark intelligent, irreverent voice Gilman takes us on a journey that feels terrifyingly real, immediate and life-threatening. The woman is no less than a godsend to a reading world that has become too used to lies, half-truth and spin."
From the Publisher
On UNDRESS ME IN THE TEMPLE OF HEAVEN:
"[A] standout travel memoir...Gilman's descriptions of their trials and tribulations crackle with wit."—Booklist"

Youthfully upbeat, Gilman delivers an entertaining memoir...offering the full wallop of disorienting, in-the-moment, transformative travel adventures."—Publishers Weekly"

[An] ambitious and intimate coming-of-age memoir."—Kirkus"

With her trademark intelligent, irreverent voice Gilman takes us on a journey that feels terrifyingly real, immediate and life-threatening. The woman is no less than a godsend to a reading world that has become too used to lies, half-truth and spin."—Alexandra Fuller

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781600244483
Publisher:
Hachette Audio
Publication date:
03/24/2009
Edition description:
Unabridged, 7 CDs
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 5.80(h) x 2.50(d)

What People are saying about this

Alexandra Fuller
With her trademark intelligent, irreverent voice Gilman takes us on a journey that feels terrifyingly real, immediate and life-threatening. The woman is no less than a godsend to a reading world that has become too used to lies, half-truth and spin.

Meet the Author

Susan Jane Gilman is the author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dressand Kiss My Tiara. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Michigan, and has written commentary for The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and Ms. magazine, among others. Her fiction and essays have received several literary awards. Though she lives in Geneva, Switzerland, she remains, eternally, a child of New York.

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