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The Best American Travel Writing 2000 by…

The Best American Travel Writing 2000

by Bill Bryson, Jason Wilson (Series Editor)

Other authors: William Booth (Contributor), Bill Buford (Contributor), Tim Cahill (Contributor), Tom Clynes (Contributor), Dave Eggers (Contributor)19 more, David Halberstam (Contributor), Mark Hertsgaard (Contributor), Isabel Hilton (Contributor), Clive Irving (Contributor), Alden Jones (Contributor), Ryszard Kapuscinski (Contributor), David Lansing (Contributor), Jessica Maxwell (Contributor), P. J. O'Rourke (Contributor), Tony Perrottet (Contributor), Rolf Potts (Contributor), Mark Ross (Contributor), Steve Rushin (Contributor), Patrick Symmes (Contributor), Jeffrey Tayler (Contributor), Jonathan Tourtellot (Contributor), William T. Vollmann (Contributor), David Wallis (Contributor), Amy Wilentz (Contributor)

Series: The Best American Travel Writing (2000), Best American (2000)

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This is a review of the audiobook version released by Houghton in 2000, it is abridged with 10 of the original 25 essays. Each piece has a different narrator, including Bill Bryson for a number of them (he is great to listen to even when he is reading a different author). A couple stood out including "From The Wonderful People Who Brought You The Killing Fields" (Outside) about a trip to a Khmer Rouge village with the guy who wrote the chapter in the travel guidebook World's Most Dangerous Places - the article is classic dark tourism complete with allusions to Heart of Darkness. The essay "Lions and Tigers and Bears" is an entertaining piece about spending the night in central park, where the author discovers most people are more afraid of him, except the random homeless person who offers him free food. This was a twist on the dark tourism theme made humorous. "Lard is Good For You" is a cute piece by a young American woman working in a rural Guatemalan village where they grow coffee, her favorite thing, but the household she is staying in refuses to brew any for health reasons, but eat lard in every dish. "Hitchhikers Cuba" by Dave Eggers is very well done, about driving around Cuba and picking up hitchhikers, one of the primary means of transportation in the country. "Exiled Beyond Kilometer 101" is about the zone outside major Russian cities, at 101 km or about 60 miles, which was established in Soviet times and defines the border between rural and urban Russia and respective cultures. ( )
  Stbalbach | Aug 14, 2012 |
I chose to read this book as we were travelling from Winnipeg to Colorado and Utah for our 2011 annual vacation. The twenty-five short pieces were chosen from all the travel writing published in 1999 to represent the interesting field of writing about journeys. Reading these pieces from the perspective of 12 years later some of them seem dated. The one piece set in Canada is about Nunavut, the new territory created from the Northwest Territory in 1999. The writer, William T. Vollmann, worries about the future of the territory and how the Inuit will adapt to increasing tourism. Twelve years later I can assure him that Nunavut is doing quite well although I’m sure it has changed from what he saw then and in the years previous. I can’t be sure because, like many Canadians, I’ve never been in any of our territories even though I’ve been through each province.
The concern about how tourism changes the country it seeks to explore was expressed by a number of the writers. Tony Perrottet, in Zoned on Zanzibar, talked about Zanzibar’s government “banking on balmy weather, tropical reefs and mile after mile of heartbreakingly beautiful beaches” to “fix …its development blues.” In the Two Faces of Tourism Jonathan Tourtellot muses about how tourism will change the Copper Canyon in Mexico. Patrick Symmes wanders through Cambodia looking for the Khmer Rouge Tourism Minister and considers how “The Wonderful People who Brought you the Killing Fields” will market the country for tourism. (Several years ago my nephew was in Cambodia and did actually tour the killing fields so it has come to pass.)
Interestingly, although there are a number of articles set in Africa, Asia and Europe, several in North America and Central America, and one in Australia, there are none from South America. Maybe no-one was travelling to South America then or maybe there were no well-written pieces about South America but it seems a strange lack. Certainly lots of people I know have been to South America and there are lots of exotic places to visit there. It would be interesting to know if the next year South America received the overdue attention it deserves.
I would recommend many but not all of the pieces in this book. Nantucket on my Mind by David Halberstam was no more than a complaint about the “new” people who were buying up property on the island and despoiling it. Seems to me that several decades ago other people probably would have made the same complaint about him.
There’s bound to be some articles other readers will like in this compilation. I hope you enjoy! ( )
  gypsysmom | Nov 24, 2011 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bryson, Billprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilson, JasonSeries Editormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Booth, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buford, BillContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cahill, TimContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Clynes, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eggers, DaveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Halberstam, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hertsgaard, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hilton, IsabelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Irving, CliveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jones, AldenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kapuscinski, RyszardContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lansing, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maxwell, JessicaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Rourke, P. J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Perrottet, TonyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Potts, RolfContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ross, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Rushin, SteveContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Symmes, PatrickContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tayler, JeffreyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Tourtellot, JonathanContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vollmann, William T.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wallis, DavidContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wilentz, AmyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618074678, Paperback)

The world may be getting smaller, but that doesn't mean it's any less varied, surprising, or exotic--as is made evident by the 25 essays collected in the inaugural edition of the Best American Travel Writing series. In search of America's sharpest, most original, and often, most curious travel writers, editor Bill Bryson and series editor Jason Wilson sifted through hundreds of stories. What the resulting collection demonstrates is that, as Wilson writes, travel stories matter:
Having a travel writer report on particular things, small things, the specific ways in which people act and interact, is perhaps our best way of getting beyond the clichés that we tell each other about different places and cultures, and about ourselves.
And, as Bryson notes, many of the freshest voices are being drawn to foreign subjects far beyond the trampled paths of tourism. Within these pages, they chart the world from Nantucket to Zanzibar, the Atlas Mountains of Morocco to Australia's Cape York Peninsula with originality and keen observation. Some even go where none would follow: drawn by the allure of danger zones, Patrick Symmes rides a dirt bike to "perhaps the most forbidden city in the world" in search of the Khmer Rouge. Tim Cahill describes his own personal journey in hell--11 long days on a barge on the Ubangi River with 3,000 people packed so close together it's impossible to move without apologizing. (Fortunately, he's befriended by a man named God who is always in the know.)

Distance is not a prerequisite for travel writing, though humor is invaluable, as Bill Buford shows in his attempt to do what you just don't do--spend the night in Central Park. When Dave Eggers discovers hitchhiking is what makes Cuba move, it becomes the point of his trip to "pick up and move people, from here to there." Tongue in cheek, he declares, "So easy to change the quality, the very direction, of Cubans' lives!" Then again, sometimes humor is just not appropriate, particularly if you've been kidnapped by Ugandan rebels (as was Mark Ross) or you're trying to help the Dalai Lama choose the next Panchen Lama without jeopardizing lives (as did Isabel Hilton). In any case, it's all happening here--golf in Greenland, cheese smuggling from France, even a ride with the Toughest Truck Driver in the World. This collection proves that travel writing is a genre whose time has come. --Lesley Reed

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:50 -0400)

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