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Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-LA from the Himalayas to Hollywood Hardcover – Bargain Price, April 30, 2000

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 340 pages
  • Publisher: Metropolitan Books Henry Holt (April 30, 2000)
  • ISBN-10: 0805043810
  • ASIN: B000H2MSCO
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 5.9 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,247,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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." (May.-- found it disappointingly indigestible. Unfortunately, only Hollywood showed signs of... retreat." (May)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Tibet has a mysterious aura, as remote to Western thought and culture as its location. Schell, dean of journalism at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of 14 previous books and numerous magazine articles, writes about the mystery of Tibet, interweaving an account of the filming of Seven Years in Tibet (which starred Brad Pitt and was based on Heinrich Harrer's book of the same title). Consequently, Schell's focus is dual: he simultaneously discusses Tibetan culture, religion, history, and geography and the filming of the movie, including casting and the building of the set for the holy city of Lhasa. (Ironically, the movie was filmed in the Argentine Andes and Hollywood, not Tibet.) Schell's account is, much like his previous books and articles, well written, well researched, and engaging. He has visited Tibet on many occasions and has served as an adviser on Asian affairs to President Clinton. A thorough bibliography accompanies the text. Highly recommended.
-Thomas K. Fry, Univ. of Denver Penrose Lib.
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By krishna sherchan on May 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
While this book is a good read for someone not familiar with Tibet and its history, I cannot recommend it wholeheartedly with so many other fine books available. The only new territory covered is the material about Hollywood, especially Brad Pitt and the making of Seven Years in Tibet. There are several long chapters summarizing the history of European exploration of Tibet, but these seem to have been compiled from sources (such as John MacGregor's Tibet: A Chronicle of Exploration and Derek Waller's The Pundits) that are far more comprehensive and are not fettered by the didactic agenda that suffuses this book.
There are many errors of fact (for instance, the events at Waco are said to have occurred in 1995) and interpretation (the passages about Buddhism are quite garbled).
Finally, I must differ with the author about the many travellers to Tibet in recent decades. I have spent much of my life in this region and have found the majority of travellers there to be well-informed about the history and politics of the region. Though doubtless there are some who arrive seeking a fantasy and leave disgruntled, this is true of most any travel destination. The beauty of the landscape and indigenous people of Tibet is very real, and much appreciated by most who journey there. Portraying the average Western traveller to Tibet as a naive Shangri-La seeker is a disservice in this era of savvy, Lonely Planet guide carrying wanderers. The situation in Hollywood is another matter entirely (well treated in this book), but I would also suggest that, prior to the Brad Pitt film, most Americans had only the faintest idea what Tibet even was, if they had heard of it at all.
Still, Schell does deserve much credit for his honesty and introspection - this is by and large a fair and balanced work. I hope it gets a wide audience, and that interested readers consult the bibliography in the back.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Meyer on July 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Orville Schell's works have always been exquisite. Written in a crisp style, penetrating in analysis, his books have never failed to breathe life into their subjects and leave the reader more informed than before. Expecting the same tour de force as found in Mandate of Heaven and Discos and Democracy, I was not disappointed with Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood. Schell tackles a topic that receives plenty of discussion and fanfare, but has experienced precious little objective study in recent years. Tibet has labored under the political and cultural repression of the People's Republic of China since 1951. Many believe that China is slowly committing cultural genocide through its repression of Tibetan religious and cultural customs and by encouraging vast numbers of Han Chinese to settle in Tibet. With the help of a charismatic Dalai Lama and throngs of Hollywood stars, the Tibetan issue has received a disproportionate amount of attention relative to its importance in world events. Whereas one struggles to find "Free East Timor" bumper stickers on cars, "Free Tibet" stickers are far more ubiquitous. The strong point of Schell's work is his analysis of Hollywood's fascination with Tibet. He interviews many of the most visible promoters of the Tibetan cause and also provides fly-on- the-wall accounts of numerous "Free Tibet" Hollywood functions and the making of the movies Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet. Through his interviews and observations, Schell largely confirms what I have suspected for years. Hollywood's promotion of the Tibetan cause has less to do with its relative merits than it does with the fact that it has become a fashionable issue in which to be associated.Read more ›
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Michael Charton on September 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I read this, because I am an Asian Studies major and know who Prof. Schell is. I wrote a Masters Thesis for my MA from Seton Hall in 1982, called Chinese Communism and Its Impact on Tibet. I am basing this review on reading the book and some of the other comments I've seen in the reviews. It is true, we have always had an fascination with Tibet, because of Lost Horizon, Seven Years in Tibet, etc. I cannot see in the book where Prof. Schell played down Chinese heavyhandedness. He also states (rightly so) that no Western Govt. backs the idea of an independent Tibet. They do back the Tibetans not being maltreated. Face it, in the modern world, Tibet does not have the resources to survive as an independent country. If anything, Dr. Schell showed just how silly, many of the Hollywood folks jumping on this bandwagon are. This is just the latest fad for them. Movies about Tibet look great on the silver screen. The same cannot be said for Kosovo, or Sudan. I gave it four stars. Hollywood Tibet would have been a better title. Tinseltown Tibet? I am glad this was written to bring it to the American people. Another drawback with this book is, how many people reading it are just reading it for the stars listed and don't understand ALL the issues. I hope this will spur Americans to read more about China as well. I want to know how far the Hollywood circuit wants to go with this. Are they going to go to Tibet themselves? Be with anti-Chinese fighters. No folks, as much as I respect the Dalai Lama, his best hope for seeing his homeland again in his lifetime is to work out a deal with the Chinese. Religious freedom for dropping independence claims. Yes, there is no more Berlin Wall. Tibet cannot make it on its own. Read the book, and as an American, gain your understanding. Want to help Tibet. Help to educate Hollywood folks in both sides of this issue. Prof. Schell shows, it is more complicated than many would like to think.
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