Picks and Pans Review: Dancing in the Light

updated 12/16/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/16/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Shirley MacLaine

"Time period upon time period lives on in the memory patterns of our mental and bodily consciousness. The hologram of that consciousness enables us to feel one with the universe and one with everything we've experienced. We are in 'reality' multidimensional beings who each reflect the totality of the whole." Got that? If so, you're ready for the really penetrating question posed by this book. At one point MacLaine describes visiting her friend Chris Griscom, an acupuncturist-mystic, in Santa Fe, N.Mex. Chris tells Shirley that what she needs is a bath in apple cider vinegar, because natural apple vinegar "helps the body clear the negative energy." MacLaine rushes right out to buy the vinegar for her bath, but she never tells how much to buy. A quart? A gallon? A vat? Does it depend on how much negative energy you have? Anyway, like her Out on a Limb, this book details countless instances of MacLaine's supposed encounters with extrasensory experiences, mixed with endless details of her 50th birthday party. There is also an account of her affair with a Russian film director, whom she names "Vassy." He pet-names her "Nif-Nif," she calls him "Honeybear." He preaches about the value of the Water Pik and about Shirl's sexual problems; she preaches about karma and ends up whacking him in the face just before he walks out. If ever two people deserved each other, it was Nif-Nif and Honeybear. Even giving MacLaine the benefit of every doubt, she presents an atrocious case. Through her eyes, for instance, the afterlife seems like an eternity of circling in a holding pattern over O'Hare Airport: "We are souls who only temporarily reside in our bodies. We pass over to the astral dimension where we remain until we decide to reincarnate again." She also discusses her own previous incarnations as, among other things, a Brazilian involved in voodoo, an infant flown by an eagle to Africa, where she became frustrated "because they were not as advanced as I," a harem dancer, a monk in a cave, a rape victim who enjoyed the experience, and someone who could control the weather. About the only person she never was, it would seem, was Bert Parks. This would be only sad except for the condescension and cruelty that creep in, MacLaine writes that through some mystical means we are all responsible for everything that happens to us—"everything, whether it was a love affair, a death, a lost job, or a disease." So, a child who contracts AIDS through a transfusion of infected blood is responsible for that tragedy. What inhuman stupidity. (Bantam, $17.95)

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