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Snake Lake [KINDLE] ❄ Snake Lake By Jeff Greenwald – In a circular valley beneath the looming peaks of the Himalaya lies Kathmandu Nepal It’s a city of shimmering prayer flags sacred cows lavish festivals and violent political turbulence—and a world In a circular valley beneath the looming peaks of the Himalaya lies Kathmandu Nepal It’s a city of shimmering prayer flags sacred cows lavish festivals and violent political turbulence—and a world that journalist Jeff Greenwald has come to call home Snake Lake unfolds during ’s dramatic “people power” uprising against Nepal’s long entrenched monarchy The story follows Greenwald as he wins the friendship of a high lama who reveals the pillars of Tibetan Buddhism; embarks on a passionate romance with a spunky but curiously unlucky news photographer; and discovers what democracy means to rural Nepali citizens—all while covering the revolution for a major American newspaper Meanwhile back in the US Greenwald’s brilliant but troubled younger brother descends into a deepening depression The author is forced to choose between witnessing Nepal’s long overdue revolution and reconnecting with an alienated brother in desperate need of help Snake Lake is primarily a memoir though the roles of several characters have been recast Focused on the life changing events that unfolded during one calamitous spring the book weaves a vivid tapestry of Buddhism revolution and the often serpentine paths to personal liberation.

10 thoughts on “Snake Lake

  1. John Eliade John Eliade says:

    There’s a whole genre of literature that takes as its premise the lost utopia tucked away in the Himalayas The authors or main characters wander through the landscape driven by visions of their past life in the West and reach a deeper meaning of existence inside of themselves They make at times interesting and other times wildly uninformed observations about TibetBhutanNepalIndia and then achieve some degree of self actualizationOften times the narrator marries a local one of the few speaking roles sometimes given to a Himalayan Like a true Hero With a Thousand Faces they conuer both the West and the East their former lives of loss and tragedy and their current lives of love and acceptenceBlessedly Snake Lake is not like thatI picked up this book because I’ve been having some difficulty finding information in detailed form regarding the history of Nepal something akin to Karma Phuntho’s A History of Bhutan or Sam Van Schaik’s Tibet A History and figured I needed to start somewhere Jeff Greenwald was a self described counter cultural type who moved to Nepal in spite of a break up with a girl who was living there turned reporter and writer He finds himself caught in the middle of the Nepali Revolution that saw the gradual democratization of the country and the eventual downfall of the monarchy culminating in the Palace Massacre and the official fall of the crown in 2008I was initially skeptical because a meditating Buddha on the cover seemed to at first imply that the book was mainly about a Buddhist journey but Nepal’s government and the majority of its society is Hindu based Naturally in this part of the world things are much complicated than that showing I guess my own depth of ignorance about Nepal as well as the cover designer’sIn fact Greenwald has done his research He references multiple times the conflict and confluence between the Buddhist and Hindu portions of Nepali society He goes over the tension between the remote and sparsely populated Newari regions that follow Tibetan Buddhist lamas and the vast tracts of foothills indistinguishable from the India just beyond the border that follow Hindu rites familiar to anyone living on the Ganges Greenwald does a terrific job giving me the tl;dr of Nepal’s big geo political shift in the latter 20th Century shortest version ever first we liked India now we like China India doesn’t like thatThere are three aspects to this kind of narrative that I normally hate but Greenwald does a terrific job navigating and communicating1 The Shangri la ization of the HimalayasWesterner narratives of the Himalayas often overlook the history of the region fraught with as much king making warmongering violence and oppression as any other region of Europe or Asia and draw it as a utopia that has been ravaged by some combination of westernization and industrialization before complaining about the slipshod electrical grid or the problems regarding running waterGreenwald doesn’t do that He calls out the Nepali beggars when they are abusing his sense of generosity He neither demonizes nor lionizes with King Birendra or the new Prime Minister Bhattarai but reports his honest assessment and feelings towards both men Nepali society is presented in Greenwalds eyes as a warts and all sort of image Rare in this genre2 Shangri la is for WesternersIn Married to Bhutan it’s not fair to say Linda Learning is “obsessed” with her marriage to a Bhutanese I mean it’s the title of her book but it detracts from an honest assessment of the country around her Reading like a blog post about her life married to a local In Radio Shangri la Lisa Napoli has to overcome her own sexual trauma and work up the courage to love again all while teaching the ethics of radio journalism to some local studentsThese aren’t bad narratives They are just so self serving that any external value becomes uickly lost There are few anecdotes I remember about either title except maybe understanding a bit about Bhutanese culture in the era they were written but only from the external perspective of being surprised that any thing exists at all I remember being distinctly frustrated at Linda Learning’s crude transliteration at times which conflicted with what locals were telling meGreenwald’s journey through the Nepali Revolution is smack in the middle of one of the deepest traumas of his life And the story of politics in a trouble Himalayan kingdom is juxtaposed with the stories of his brother Jordan Greenwald’s past isn’t particularly useful for the student of Himalayan history but it makes for a solid narrative because he tried his very hardest to view it through the lens of Buddhist religion and Nepali culture Most of the above narratives focus on how trauma experienced in the west needs to be let go and how the excess we have in our lives can be done away with either slowly by choice or rapidly through circumstanceGreenwald’s experience with Tibetan Buddhism is much cerebral and detailed than that He has important philosophical uestions that are real world applicable There is no real final release You know that moment in the story where the main character ie the Western narrator stands in the wind and releases their worries and sorrows symbolizing how they’ve let go of their emotional attachmentIn fact what we’re left with is worries More uestions and concernsPerhaps this news was coming I looked hopefully at the Rinpoche but he placed his hands on my shoulders and raised his eyebrows “That’s all” Chokyi Nyima said gently “Clear?” If there are no irrational taboos to be found in Buddhist philosophy there are no easy comforts eitherIn Shangri la narratives we usually find the Himalayan kingdom troubled by the encroaching industry and decadence of the west is soon a dull background to the western hero’s personal journey to liberation In Snake Lake Greenwald’s journey is a full circle but the reader is left with a sense of incompleteness a metaphor for the positive dream of a democratic Nepal but without the easy answer of a hopeful futureNot bad3 Shangri laians are passive mute denizens of a Troubled ParadiseThis is where Jeff Greenwald Ace Reporter shines The Nepalis in his story are not passive observers of a drama unfolding by soon to be enlightened Westerners They are active participants and the shapers of their reality More than once Greenwald details his interviews with locals though I should emphasize here that the book is of a novel format than a non fiction investigation and in one chapter that feels like it is taken out of a James Michener or a Jeff Shaara novel he details the process and choice of publishing a story in an oppressive absolute monarchy regarding corruption at the highest levelsThere are roving gangs of pseudo democratic youngsters who believe democracy is about power to the people and power to the people is about the freedom to throw bricks through a window The soldiers barely children pose for the western photographers with their weapons while Kathmandu’s doctors hang stethescopes around their necks knowing the kind of publicity a crew of soldiers arresting medical professionals hard at work will look in the San Francisco Tribune Being a Westerner Greenwald’s social circle is mostly other expats But he draws a hard line in the sand noting how Westerners live by their own special rules and are naturally set apart The Revolution certainly affects everyone but it is by Nepalis for Nepalis and of NepalisThat’s something most books of this kind forgetI picked up this book because it looked interesting and because I knew so little about the Nepali monarchy revolution and society in general It’s a Kingdom shrouded behind a Hindu veil and makes constant reappearances in my research regarding Tibet and Bhutan that I’ve finally become overwhelmed with uestions As a primer it’s good Greenwald is a great story teller and goes over basic myths about the landNo one recalls who built Boudhnath Two oft repeated legends Nepali and tibetan share the limelight The Nepali story is typically macabre reflecting the ancient kingdom’s fixation on loyalty and duty The Tibetan version is eually far fetched but I prefer its focus on self relianceAnd his constant wondering about where exactly Nepali myth meets Nepali history adds to the real sense of wonder and confusion that can accompany I personally attest the disorientation of being in a country that seems to do that very thingI shuddered wondering about its destination – and wondered if the very fact of my wondering was perhaps the point Maybe Nag Pokhari existed and always had as a reminder of unseen depths the serpentine uncertainties of life Were Nepalis that subtle? I couldn’t put it past them This was after all Asia where things often turned out to be far complex than they appeared and even the simplest objects might be onions of spiritual sybolism their true meaning obscured by layer after layer of metaphorI recommend this book for the uninitiated in Nepal like me For this review and other articles visit or follow me

  2. K. Counihan K. Counihan says:

    Good but Heavy ReadThis is not a travelogue but of a memoir of the authors travels back and forth to the Snake Lake region of Nepal He studies with priests and reports on the area to his publisher in California There is a lot of personal stuff about his brother that may make some people uncomfortable The best part was the final part of the book which is a uite riveting account of a revolution and overthrow of the government The events just happen as he is walking down the street

  3. Erin Erin says:

    This is worth reading and I can't say I didn't enjoy it but the writing is forced sometimes and Greenwald seemed to waffle between writing a memoir and a novel I'm no stickler for writing only the absolute 100% truth in a memoir and he writes in the preface that he changed some details to protect identities etc and that's fine But the style should be one or the other novel or memoir not both and this wasn't It made it hard to appreciate the realness of the memoir and even harder to accept the tools and details of fiction not afforded by memory I also found it jolting and contrived to have the entire book written from his perspective except for one of the last chapters written from the perspective of his girlfriend There was nothing in that chapter couldn't have been told by Jeff as a this is what I found out was happening to her later on; there was simply no reason to change the narrator at that point in the book and doing so made it feel kind of sloppyThat being said I did like the philosophical insights of this book and found myself highlighting a lot of passages that are worth meditating on later Seeing Jeff's journey through Eastern philosophy is a nice way to explore the belief systems he touches upon in a realistic way than academic study affords It's also an inherently interesting story and piued my interest in Nepalese history so for those two reasons I'd say it's a nice read but nothing that will rock your world

  4. Daniel Simmons Daniel Simmons says:

    Greenwald has a real knack for describing places his Kathmandu came alive for me lifting off the page in all its alternately rank and perfumed chaotic glory and I marveled at his depictions of his neighborhood Swayambhunath and the tumult of the Nepalese capital's streets I wish I could say the same of his descriptions of people I found almost none of the dialogue remotely believable In a novel that might not matter so much I'm willing to suspend my disbelief about the witticisms of John Green YA novels' teenage characters for example so long as the story is compelling enough but in a nonfiction memoir? It made me distrust the whole book and put an unbridgeable distance between me Greenwald his lover and especially the lost brother we are meant to mourn This book also boasts one of the most ludicrous love scenes I've ever read romantically lit by the fires of Pashupatinath's cremation ghats

  5. Raja Raja says:

    My normal complaints about memoirs placing yourself at the center of events casting everything through the filter of your own life and experience were deeply aggravated by the fact that all of the crucial events of this story all the parts worth telling occurred outside of the presence of the author and to other people What presumption to think he should be the one to tell those stories Plus his poetic speech was labored and not very insightful And I could not shake the feeling that for all his statements otherwise he actually doesn't like Nepal or its culture very much as it was only depicted as chaos and discomfort in contrast to his lengthy embrace of what he clearly saw as the calm wisdom of Tibetan Buddhism

  6. Aimee Aimee says:

    All hell broke loose for Jeff Greenwald in the spring of 1990 where he was reporting on the deteriorating political situation in Kathmandu and evaluating whether his future and love life was in Nepal or the Bay Area Into this morass comes some disturbing letters from his brother with whom he had a rocky relationship Jeff leaves for the States in an attempt to help him but it is too late This book is part memoir and part tribute and sometimes the two themes flow but sometimes collide oddly Parts were poignant others long winded but ultimately the author makes peace with the events that transpired

  7. Paul Paul says:

    Jeff is a photojournalist living in Katmandu in Nepal in 1990 The book is a memoir of a turbulent three months for the nation and for Jeff The early sparks of a democracy movement his finding a guru and a girlfriend and his brother back in the States reaching a crisis point all bring pressure on him He returns to the US but is too late to help his brother and the Nepal nation erupts into full revolt against the King and his army The book and author really pulled me in to these events The Hindu and Buddhist background was well woven into the narrative I heard the author interviewed on Rick Steve's radio podcast and was not sorry I found the book A great and inspiring read

  8. Holly Holly says:

    This was a very personal book by the author; a tribute to his brother who committed suicide a romance and the turbulent political situation of Nepal in 1990 Not my favorite of his books I really liked shopping for Buddhas which also takes place in Nepal but still a well written and interesting read

  9. Sandy Sandy says:

    I read this book primarily for its setting in preparation for a trip to Nepal I found it uite compelling even though parts of it are a bit overwritten and parts are a bit glib Greenwald can be too much of a smart ass Even so there are some poignant parts and some great observations

  10. Yogi Travelling Yogi Travelling says:

    American journalist Jeff Greenwald recounts his experience in Nepal covering the revolution against the Monarch He describes Nepals attempt towards democracy at the same time he deals with his own personal issues following the tenants of Buddhism

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