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Motel Nirvana: Dreaming of the New Age in the American Desert Hardcover – May, 1996

3.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

A 30-year-old British woman travels around the southwestern United States, the focal point of the New Age movement and a desert landscape where "someone you can rely upon to have an opinion about soap opera or McDonald's turns out to have seen angels in her backyard and the man who sells you a cup of coffee thinks himself a reincarnation of Nefertiti." McGrath struggles to maintain a sense of ironic amusement as she encounters an assortment of eccentric folks, from a pudgy, sexually confused "angel" to a "convergence" of people who have achieved immortality--or claim to, at any rate--by deciding that they don't feel like dying. American readers may find some difficulty warming up to McGrath's British prose style, but the humor and insight in Motel Nirvana are well worth the effort. --Ron Hogan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A British journalist checks into the American Southwest to spend a year among pilgrims in the more outre regions of inner space and among the spiritual snake-oil salesmen who serve them. McGrath's wanderings take her literally and figuratively all over the map?to spiffy, boutique-choked Santa Fe, to the ill-fated Biosphere, to a UFO drop-in at an Arizona canyon, to an orgy of "cellular intercourse" among a cult of self-professed "immortals." She intersperses passages of high humor with more sober disquisitions on the real history of Europeans in the West, from the Spanish seekers for El Dorado to the scientists working at the National Laboratory at Los Alamos. There's a glancing, supercilious tone to much of the writing here, and McGrath's prose sometimes shades into deep purple (in the city of Phoenix, "the mammon virus throbs everywhere, extending its spider legs into the lowliest corner of the city, poisoning its soul"). But McGrath concludes her first book with a passionate elegy for the indigenous cultures being plundered and homogenized by New Age hucksters?and with a moving confession of her own that brings the work to an inspired conclusion.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 227 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; 1st Picador USA ed edition (May 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312143729
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312143725
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,934,917 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I did not mean to purchase this, I was just trying to read the sample, and once I had read for an HOUR i knew something waz up. Sure enough. 4.39 gone. It is about a skeptic with nothing to do who decides to live among the most out-there New Agers of the Southwest; everyone is an Alien, Angel, or Abductee...She (yes, a woman exploring on her own, big sigh) has a sort-of friend in NYC she counts on to talk her back to sanity should she begin to succumb but he's not the caring type. Ok, so it is more interesting than my life, it still doesnt make a good book.
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Format: Hardcover
I found McGrath's memoir to be a trenchant and often hilarious memoir not only of her wonderfully scruffy journey through the Southwest, but a gentle, well-written metaphor for her own quest for the chimaera we call inner peace. The first few chapters had me guffawing at the incredibly crazy cast of characters she meets in Sedona, Santa Fe, and other new age hot spots. Believe me, writing this from the Bay Area, she's not so far off. Despite these peoples' desperate and very funny quests for nirvana, McGrath treats them as signs of the fin de siecle, signs of America's greater social malaise viewed through her own kind lens. Her book is one of the 'nicest' I've read in a while (not to mention funniest). If you're looking for fuzzy, new age enlightenment in this book, look elsewhere. If you're looking for sardonic clarity, it's here. Remarkably well-written. Why is it American's don't write this well?
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Format: Paperback
The book seems to capture the wild aspects of the american fronteer through the eyes and imaginatively ingenious mind of melanie. Not only does she seem to find the life on the desert intent with desire and thwartinng with perspiring energy(which for me, I found myself traveling with her and even tasting her rootbeer). Her journey brought me back to my own spiritual journey through the southwest some time ago, which is why for me, I fell in deep amor with this complex and somewhat transparent realm, the realm of the desert that I do so desire with obsession. If anyone is truely in need of a spiritual awakening, the desert of the southwest is where you need to be, but dont forget this book! It's essential.
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By A Customer on March 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
Once Melanie McGrath finishes her lengthy tome (i.e., the first two chapters) on the New Agers, this book takes off. Her insights into things like the Biosphere, Navajo culture, Route 66, and other things "southwestern" are first-rate. The best part is she manages to pull it all together in the second-last chapter (the last one is more like an epilogue on what she learned from her time in the "enlightened desert") by showing how the Indians have such contempt for New Agers who appropriate Indian culture to justify their looniness. One angry Indian sums it up best: "Our political agenda and the New Age agenda have totally different paths. We don't want their help." All in all a worthy look at an area of the States that is quirkily unique.
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