Timothy Doyle | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Timothy Doyle

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In 1994 Timothy Doyle, accompanied by his hired Sherpa guide, Kali, set out from his residence in Kathmandu to hike 500 or so miles to the Nepalese town of Dolpo. Going to Dolpo (Imperfect Music and Literature/Aark Arts), his spare memoir of the trip, depicts a spiritual and geographic journey. Traveling "to see the mountains," as Kali informs a checkpoint policeman along the way, Doyle, who's also a photographer, intersperses his snapshotlike descriptions of the beautiful and often treacherous landscape with asides on the history of Buddhism and his own musings on the nature of existence, but he never comes across as preachy or high-minded; he approaches the philosophy with a seriousness and sincerity often lacking in the stuff found on New Age bookshelves. He's no romantic either: he and Kali meet villagers both kind and malicious, smoke cigarettes and the occasional joint, and now and then want to just give up and go home. There's no superhuman struggle with nature here, no yeti sightings, no brush with death (despite a couple of unpleasant encounters with mastiffs, the "bane of Himalayan travel"), and no boing of enlightenment. The only real drama comes near the end, when Doyle is stricken with a mysterious intestinal malady. Worms? A religious experience? Some bad tsampa? It turns out to be a relatively mundane affliction, but the book never pretends to be an adventure story. It is simply what the title implies: a trip through magnificent yet poverty-stricken Nepal and the meditations of a thoughtful young man along the way. Doyle reads from Going to Dolpo on Friday, September 5, at 7:30 PM at Quimby's, 1854 W. North, 773-342-0910, and again on Tuesday, September 9, at 7 PM at Transitions Bookplace, 1000 W. North, 312-951-7323.

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