goes: “I want to f— you.”nAside from that, the movie, a grimntale about a male whore, is midway betweenna roman de moeurs and a thriller.nSuch a theme, in order to succeed asneither realism or parable, must be saturatednwith wise cynicism and subduedneroticism. However, Mr. Schrader, thencreator of American Gigolo, demonstratesnan awe-inspiring talent for evisceratingneven the tiniest cynical or eroticninnuendo, leaving the movie as antisepticnas an emergency room and as suggestivenas a police report. Mr. Schrader’snheavy-handedness is imposing: he seemsnto ignore even the most elementarynrules, according to which a great warriornmust be couched in layers of modesty,neven clumsiness, in order to makena dramatic impact. Likewise, an allegednstud must be shrouded in understatementsnand intimations in order to increasenhis erotic credibility. Instead, Mr.nSchrader bows to the rules of the LiberalnCorrespondencenCulture and shows his sexual musclemannin complete nudity. Inevitably, thenaudience muses: “What’s the big deal?”nand the excitement is equal to pagingnthrough an anatomy text.nThe movie is rated R, but when I sawnit there were a number of 12- and 15year-oldnboys in the theater. Sincenmovies, from their inception, havenproved to be a powerful supplier of rolenmodels, and as the male whore on screennis handsome, chic, charming, dazzlinglynclothed, and—at the end—good andnnoble to boot, I can safely aver its socialnimpact. I can bet that those 12-yearoldsnin the audience will no longerndream about following in the footstepsnof Shane, Ringo Kid or Gary Cooper innHigh Noon; everyone will consider becomingnan American gigolo. This problemnhas not been brought up in any ofnthe collective of American film critics’nreviews published on Mr. Schader’snmovie (at least none that I’ve read). DnLetter from the EasternnHemisphere: Random but Conscientious Notesnby Thomas MolnarnHegel said that in modern times thenreading of the morning paper had replacednBible reading. If so, then in ournultramodern times traveling has replacednnewspapers. Not that travel isntoday a pleasant affair; mass tourism hasnruined the pleasure and rendered evennordinary observation a questionablenenterprise. Chartered tours, standardizednfood, organized excursions and homogenizednhotels wrap the purposefulntraveler in invisible plastic and makenhim see only the artificial in the mostnexotic places. Even as travel is madentechnically easier (by jets, guides, pre-nDr. Molnar lives in New York Citynwhen he is not traveling.n36inChronicles of Culturenpaid everything), it is also becomingnharder and more challenging to unravelnwhat distant lands and people really arenlike beneath the cliches and vacationnposters.nIndia seems unchanged in its ineradicablendirt, misery, indecency: in Indianone loses one’s joie de vivre. Thus, facingnthe Taj Mahal for the first time isnalmost shattering. The pure octagon ofnmarble is proportioned so that one forgetsnits size and is content simply withnits design, which is exquisite. As withnall edifices of white marble, includingnthe Parthenon, its gleam in the noondaynsun effaces the angles: one must returnnat sunset, the gray then helps the whitento manifest its volume, its tactile impact.nThe milling crowd of saffron-robednBuddhist monks, Japanese camera-nnnwielders and German note-takers doesnnot affect the purity and sensuousnessnof this building, consecrated to the memorynof love. The Taj is India’s redeemingnfeature.nAlexandria was a disappointment. Inwent there in search of its gloriousnfounder, its Musaion, Caesar’s footsteps,nPtolemy, Euclid and Theophrastus,nArius and Athanase. All I found was andecrepit Arab town, unworthy of thesenmemories. There is simply no continuitynhere between old and new, and the aggressivenvendors of plastic wallets donnot appear to have heard of the dramanof the Egyptian queen and the Romanngeneral. Even the five-star hotel in whatnwas. once Farouk’s pleasure gardennbrings only disappointments, defectivenplumbing and questionably clean bednlinen. In the lobby, Egyptian televisionnfeatures the interminable parade ofnSadat’s army.nOne usually arrives in Nepal directlynfrom the steamy horrors of Calcutta ornBenares; after having held one’s nosenfor days, one takes in gulps of cleannmountain air. The sight of Anapurna,nGaurizankar, Mt. Everest lifts yournspirits, you feel—you are—on top ofnthe world. The pure visual sensation isnenhanced by the knowledge of what thensight means, its uniqueness, its role innhistory, the sufferings and joys it hasnwitnessed, perhaps caused, the reactionsnit has prompted. Mt. Everest is EdmundnHillary, the Tserpas, frozen limbs andnundaunted courage, the statement bynFrench alpinist Herzog that “I had tonclimb it because it was there!”nIf the Himalayas are exalting, thenBuddhist stupas (shrines) of Nepal’snholy cities are debasing. Even the bestnstupas and temples are usually repugnantnin their vulgarity and gaudiness:nthey are reminiscent of Luna Parkn—bright colors, mirrors, bells, idols,nplastic objects, painted statues, goldplatednridiculous domes, 100-foot-longnBuddhas with the rouged lips andnplucked eyebrows of a floozy. The centralnstupa in Katmandu is worse: dirtyn