THE ROPE IN THE WATER: A pilgrimage to india by Sylvia Fraser (Thomas Allen), 336 pages, $32.95 cloth. Rating: NNNNsylvia fraser has gone to india
and brought it home in a book that's part personal travelogue, part mystery.
Fraser's entire life has been an incredible journey. She made it in journalism's man's world before the women's movement stormed the barricades of sexually segregated help- wanteds.
And she's remained a pioneer, living by her own standards, ever since.
She is still a completely practical Hamiltonian by birth, Protestant to the cultural core, steeped in the ethos of western philosophic and scientific tradition.
Yet staying true to the call of her soul's healing has kept her consistently slipping off the edge of respectability. Whether she chose it or not, mysticism chose her.
The title of A Rope In The Water comes from the central miracle of Fraser's rich and delicately recounted three-month solo journey travelling through India.
Swimming in the Indian Ocean, she's carried far from shore by an irresistible rip tide, but a rope to safety comes to hand right under the surface. Whatever else it is, that rope is a state of mind, and Fraser's graceful, low-key delivery opens a doorway into it.
Like Parsifal, Fraser has the guts to be a fool in her Indian quest for the grail of illumination. But as a writer she's crafty, concise yet rich in detail.
This is a story whose pacing never flags even though she's synthesizing a huge hunk of eastern philosophy, including the precepts of at least three major religions. I was caught in the spell. See if the unexplained fools you, too.
Fraser speaks at a special breakfast on Sunday (May 13) at the King Edward Hotel.