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My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a…

My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who's Been Everywhere

by Susan Orlean

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I love reading travel books while I’m traveling. Sometimes when I read them and don’t have a big trip on the horizon it’s just an exercise in frustration. I read this one on a plane to Australia, which was perfect. There’s even one part about Orlean’s trip to Sydney during the 2000 Olympic games!

The book is a compilation of short stories and essays that have been published as articles in other magazines. It was a good mix of the author covering big events, exploring small towns, or trying new things in a foreign place. Orlean has a skilled way of finding fascinating gems. There are essays set all over the world, but even if you haven’t been there you can see what she sees. You’re flipping through records in Paris or talking to a cranky Australian about the traffic caused by the Olympics. There weren’t any essays that I think will stick with me forever, which is why my rating isn’t higher, but they were fun trips to take along with the author.

“All the while, the girls kept talking about their schedule. It was as if the strangeness of where they were and what they were doing was absolutely ordinary: as if there were no large, smelly drunk sprawled in front of them, as if it were quite unexceptional to be three Scottish girls drinking Australian beer in Thailand on their way to Laos, and as if the world were the size of a peanut-something as compact as that, something is easy to pick up, shell, consume, as long as you were young and sturdy and brave.” ( )
  bookworm12 | Oct 13, 2014 |
This is an enjoyable but uneven collection of essays about places and cultures in the U.S. and around the world. Most were originally printed in the New Yorker between 1992 and 2003. The title seems obliquely inspired by the Frank Sinatra song, 'My Kind of Town', which is mentioned in passing in one of the longest and best pieces in the collection, 'All Mixed Up'. It's a close look at an independent grocery in Queens, and it offers a magnificent portrait of the rhythms of the store, the economics of the grocery business, and the incredible cultural melange of the employees and the neighborhood they serve. It's worth checking the book out of a library just for this essay.

Some of the other essays I particularly liked were 'Madame President', about a student body president and her friends at Martin Luther King Jr. high school in Manhattan; and 'the Congo Sound', about a tiny record shop in Paris that specializes in African music. Part of what makes these pieces so appealing is the tolerant affection Orleans invites towards her subjects - not that she inserts herself into the action - in fact, she keeps a cool distance, at least on the surface. But there's a lot of warmth between the lines.

On the flip side, this style makes other pieces uncomfortable: 'Beautiful Girls', on the culture of beauty pageants for toddlers; 'A Place Called Midland', on George W. Bush's stomping grounds; 'Art for Everybody', on the art machine of Thomas Kinkade. Orleans is too sophisticated a writer to describe her subjects in these essays as lowbrow bumpkins, or rich philistines. Yet, the quotes she uses from them, and her deadpan descriptions, invite and then confirm these judgments from the reader. It's not that she's wrong - Orleans has a fine ear and a sometimes brutal sense of irony - but it would be painful to discover yourself quoted or sketched in one of these. ( )
  bezoar44 | Mar 10, 2014 |
Great writer. Susan Orlean introduces us to people and places we will never have a chance to see. Full of laughter, wisdom and insight. Thank you Susan for a terrific read and a fantastic journey. ( )
  njcur | Feb 13, 2014 |
lots of fun. and actually learned a lot. ( )
  mahallett | Nov 10, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812974875, Paperback)

Susan Orlean has been called “a national treasure” by The Washington Post and “a kind of latter-day Tocqueville” by The New York Times Book Review. In addition to having written classic articles for The New Yorker, she was played, with some creative liberties, by Meryl Streep in her Golden Globe Award—winning performance in the film Adaptation.
Now, in My Kind of Place, the real Susan Orlean takes readers on a series of remarkable journeys in this uniquely witty, sophisticated, and far-flung travel book. In this irresistible collection of adventures far and near, Orlean conducts a tour of the world via its subcultures, from the heart of the African music scene in Paris to the World Taxidermy Championships in Springfield, Illinois–and even into her own apartment, where she imagines a very famous houseguest taking advantage of her hospitality.
With Orlean as guide, lucky readers partake in all manner of armchair activity. They will climb Mt. Fuji and experience a hike most intrepid Japanese have never attempted; play ball with Cuba’s Little Leaguers, promising young athletes born in a country where baseball and politics are inextricably intertwined; trawl Icelandic waters with Keiko, everyone’s favorite whale as he tries to make it on his own; stay awhile in Midland, Texas, hometown of George W. Bush, a place where oil time is the only time that matters; explore the halls of a New York City school so troubled it’s known as “Horror High”; and stalk caged tigers in Jackson, New Jersey, a suburban town with one of the highest concentrations of tigers per square mile anywhere in the world.
Vivid, humorous, unconventional, and incomparably entertaining, Susan Orlean’s writings for The New Yorker have delighted readers for over a decade. My Kind of Place is an inimitable treat by one of America’s premier literary journalists.

From the Hardcover edition.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:02:53 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

"In My Kind of Place, Susan Orlean takes readers on a series of remarkable journeys in a uniquely witty and sophisticated travel book. In this collection of adventures far and near, Orlean conducts a tour of the world via its subcultures, from the heart of the African music scene in Paris to the World Taxidermy Championships in Springfield, Illinois - and even into her own apartment, where she imagines a very famous houseguest taking advantage of her hospitality."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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