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Bad Trips Paperback – April 16, 1991

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews Review

Half the pleasure of reading the stories collected together in Bad Trips, an anthology of travel writing, is imagining the authors so wonderfully out of place! Picture Indian author Anita Desai in wintry Norway or proper British writer Jonathan Raban in a seamy Louisiana pool hall. Italian semiotician Umberto Eco in Southern California? David Mamet in the Caribbean? Before you've even started, you know it's going to be good. The stories range from laugh-out-loud funny (Martin Amis on the start of a harrowing flight from London: "When it comes to flying, I am a nervous passenger but a confident drinker and Valium-swallower. And although I wasn't exactly goosing the stewardesses or singing 'Viva Espana'... I was certainly in holiday mood....") to the poignant. (James Trevor describing his worst journey, the trip he took back to an Irish boarding school when he was 12: "By the time we reached Bunclody the odour of long-boiled cabbage that hung about the school's kitchen and dining room was beginning to mingle with the bus's exhaust fumes. By Kildavin, the noise of the play yard echoed; by Tullow, Monsieur Bertain was striking the blackboard in a fury. 'Tell us why, if you would,' the sarcastic science master invited in Rathvilly. 'Tell us why you lack intelligence.'")

Some of the authors included in this anthology are well known in other genres--Eco, Mamet, and John Updike, for example--while others such as Jan Morris and Redmond O'Hanlon have made a name for themselves primarily as travel writers; but whether you recognize the names or not, you'll find all the stories in Bad Trips well worth reading and then coming back to time and again.

From Library Journal

Editor Fraser's compilation is a slight departure from the typical travel book. It is a collection of tales from poets, novelists, and journalists about the worst journeys they have ever taken. Contributing artists and themes include James Fenton in wartime Saigon, Umberto Eco in a tacky hotel in Southern California, Jonathan Raban on a brief trip through the squalor of Louisiana, Wilfred Thesiger on a camel ride across the Arabian desert, and Anita Desai on a frigid, midwinter sojourn to a Norwegian island. The tone ranges from utter terror to outrageous humor. Entertaining and exhilarating, this book is fun for inexperienced travelers or those who have journeyed far and shared similar feelings.
- Melinda Stivers Leach, Precision Editorial Svces., Wondervu, Col.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (April 16, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679729089
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679729082
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,979,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Ivy on March 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
This anthology's title is off by one letter: it should be called Sad Trips, not Bad Trips. The phrase 'bad trips' (and especially the book's front cover description: "A sometimes terrifying, sometimes hilarious collection of writing on the perils of the road") suggests to me the journeys that are hell to live through but fun to look back on, like, say, the time I spent three days trapped in the Boise, Idaho airport with what seemed to be the entire population of the state of Idaho. Those are the kinds of stories I expected from this anthology.
But in Bad Trips, the editor gives us a few funny stories along with tales alternately grim, gruesome, and depressing beyond all description. Just a few examples of the topics covered: a walk through a refugee village full of starving children, the torture, death, and dismemberment of civilians in El Salvador, the city of Hue shortly after it was destroyed by the Vietcong and American armies. These are important tales, and they need to be told, but they seem somewhat inappropriate for a book purporting to be a light-hearted, funny, travel anthology.
The editor made a few other strange decisions in assembling this collection, and while one works, most don't. I laud his attempt to include the work of some great writers, and this pays off: the selections by David Mamet, Anita Desai, Martin Amis, and John Updike are wonderful, and there's a poem by Al Purdy that every off-the-beaten-track traveler should read. But the book also includes a number of extracts from works of fiction, which jars - part of the joy of travel stories is that they're *true*.
Overall, the strength of some of the individual selections doesn't make up for the strange choices the editor has made. Look for it used, or check it out of the library.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. K. Kelley on March 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
This was a book I started, got bored with, and came back to later when the book pile was about exhausted. That should tell you something: most of the stories simply weren't too enthralling. I didn't notice a lot of humour; in fact, I found very little. When I came back to finish it, I liked it a little better but not too much. Most of the stories are too short to really satisfy.
On the positive side, quite the cast of authors has been assembled, and they can indeed write. The variety of places and circumstances is impressive. I found at least half the stories interesting and worth reading.
As adventure travel, it doesn't compare to anything by Tim Cahill for excitement and uniqueness, or to William Least Heat-Moon for depth and powers of observation, but it'll do.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Stein on February 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Bad Trips is divided into various short stories by notoriously famous authors. Mamet, Geldof, Greene, and Updike, to name a few create very funny short essays of their unusual and sometimes precarious trips throughout the world. I would recommend this book to someone taking a cross-country trip for example from Seattle to Atlanta in a big van carrying unneccessary items on bald tires traveling through the winter months and sleeping in friends of friends houses while trying to use outdated maps. Anyone who has ever taken a "not as planned trip" will enjoy this book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. P. Anderson on February 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
Like another reviewer, I expected this to be a collection of travel nightmare stories. You know, disasters so terrible that they become quite interesting and amusing. I know there are some books out there like that (just can't recall the titles).

What it really is, though, is quite literary - David Mamet, Umberto Eco, Martin Amis, Graham Greene, John Updike ... Yes, the travel nightmare part is still there. It's not all funny, however. As some of the other reviewers have pointed out, some of the stories are rather depressing.

Nonetheless, the writing is quite good - Mamet tries to relax in the Caribbean, Eco's piece skewers William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon, Amis is a nervous flier, Greene almost passes out taking a mule across Mexican desert and jungle, Updike describes Venezuelan Indians ...

I was tempted to give this one a 5, but the hoops the editor has to jump through to fit his odd theme (*literary* travel nightmares) mean some of the stuff in the collection is just rather odd. There are, for example, a number of poems (there are also a couple of fiction pieces). That's definitely literary, but not very "travel". There are also some rather obscure authors too. Most of these, interestingly, are Canadian (I believe the editor is Canadian too). In addition, the different efforts are quite uneven. Some at the beginning, for example, seem like mere throw-aways.

And, finally, there's that issue of false advertising. Not a bad book at all, but probably not what you were expecting it to be.
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Format: Paperback
As with any anthology, this collection of travel stories includes a range of quality. Some of these stories are quite good, transporting the reader to a specific place and time, immersing us in the writer’s experiences. Others are a bit more pedestrian, providing some interesting glimpses at other places, but failing to truly allow the reader go along for the ride. This is range is also probably somewhat subjective, as different readers may well connect with different stories and writing styles. Overall, though, this book is effective as showing the myriad difficulties and troubles that can arise to result in a ‘bad trip’.

Anyone who has done any significant traveling probably has their share of stories of trips gone wrong. As we face these travel trials, we find little comfort in the commonality of such experiences, or the fact that they will likely create the best stories about our trips. At the time, they are simply too aggravating, miserable, or plain painful for us to appreciate in these ways. However, as the stories in this book show, such experiences are often both memorable and interesting, which makes them great material for excellent travel writing. We all can empathize with these authors and their struggles, while being thankful that we only have to experience them vicariously. As with all good travel writing, the best of these stories help us to experience the world in places and ways that we are not likely to ever experience personally.

After reading these stories, it will be interesting to see how I react the next time I find myself facing some problem or unexpected trouble on a trip. These stories should help me keep my difficulties in perspective and recognize that these experiences are part of the nature of travel.
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