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Travel Writing Hardcover – Bargain Price, August 4, 2008

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From Publishers Weekly

Debut novelist Ferry builds his quietly tricky tale around an English teacher's amateur investigation into a traffic fatality. Driving home from work, narrator Pete Ferry pulls up beside a car being erratically driven; Pete considers taking action, but before he can, the car crashes into a lamp post, killing Lisa Kim, the young driver. The event haunts Pete, a high school English teacher and occasional travel writer, and he soon neglects his professional duties as he looks into who Lisa was and why she died. Pete is so obsessed with his quarry that he does not notice that his relationship with live-in girlfriend Lydia is failing, though he does turn up leads to Lisa's heroin connection and a sinister psychiatrist. Or perhaps not: Pete addresses much of his narrative to his English class, and it is not clear whether the reader is meant to believe that the car accident and ensuing intrigues have actually happened, or if Pete has invented them to teach his students a lesson about storytelling. The result is a novel that, for all the cleverness of its construction, is also earnest, engrossing and affecting. (Aug.)
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From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Ferry takes readers on a storyteller's journey. As a high school English teacher and part-time travel writer, he uses fictionalized situations to engage his students' interest, and readers can never quite be sure whether he is telling them about real or fictitious events. After witnessing a fatal car accident, which Ferry believes he could have prevented, he finds himself drawn into the story of Lisa Kim, the victim. The book moves back and forth between Ferry's life and past and his connections, real or imagined, to Lisa Kim. The author does not follow chronological order or standard format in his story line, but instead moves between the past and present to allow readers a glimpse into the impact they have on others. Or do they? When the narrator delivers the line "what I'm saying is that very often illusion is all we have," it does make readers wonder if they have been taken for a ride. This book provides a unique, stylish, and challenging read for AP literature students and/or those interested in creative writing and the writing process.—Janet Melikian, Central High School East, Fresno, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (August 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151014361
  • ASIN: B002YD8GNY
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 7.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,820,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sam Sattler on October 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Peter Ferry is a storyteller and his debut novel, "Travel Writing," is one terrific story. The novel's dedication is the first clue that Ferry has chosen to write something a little different to mark his first time out. It will not take long for alert readers to notice that the three people to whom the book is dedicated have the same names as three of its main characters, nor that the author himself is the novel's narrator. Soon enough, the reader is wondering what is real and what is not - and that is half the fun of "Travel Writing."

Fictional Peter Ferry (as well as real life Peter Ferry) is an English teacher who makes a few bucks on the side writing newspaper travel pieces. He is also a born storyteller and he motivates and inspires his high school students by example, often telling them on-the-fly stories in class, rather than by preaching the mechanics of writing. All in all, Ferry is pretty content with his life, but all of that changes one winter night when he witnesses a car crash that claims the life of a young Asian woman.

Only moments before her death, Ferry had noticed the woman's erratic driving before she pulled alongside him at a stoplight. The two make brief eye contact as Ferry realizes the woman is either too drunk or too ill to drive safely but before he can intervene she speeds away to her death. Realizing that his was the last face the woman would ever see, Ferry becomes haunted by his inaction, always wondering if he could have saved Lisa Kim's life by acting more quickly and decisively.

This is the story Peter Ferry chooses to tell his high school English class, a story of one man's personal obsession with the death of a woman he never knew in life but comes to know intimately after her death.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
Peter Ferry, teacher and writer, offers his first novel, starring Peter Ferry, teacher and writer. When Ferry the character witnesses a traffic accident that kills a young woman he's never met, he grows increasingly entangled in her world. She becomes the object of his intense fascination, to the point that he alienates his friends, jeopardizes his job, and loses his career, and starts to lose his love. But then he discovers a secret somebody else has been dying to keep.

Hanging his story on this thin spine of psychological mystery, Ferry the author spins a complex yarn of a man whose lifelong struggle against responsibility comes into conflict with his soul yearning to grow up. The boundaries between author and story grow fuzzy, and the novel challenges you to guess how much of what you've just read is really fiction. The metanarrative becomes menacing when he starts to suggest that maybe there's more than a novel here.

I have to confess, I don't usually like metafiction. It's usually mere academic puffery from MFA candidates who want you to know what serious artists they are. Not so here. Ferry, whether character or writer, is a knot of conflict that only works itself out through storytelling. The only way he can decipher himself is by telling us his story. And the story he tells brings us into a life grown bizarre behind its revelations.

This difficult but rewarding novel probably won't become a breakout hit. The author menaces the audience too much for a mass following, and this story is so book-bound that it will never be made into a movie. But this is the kind of literature that makes me love reading. And it's the kind of book that publishers push out there because they love books. Smart, funny, grim, and surreal, this book will leave you scratching your head in the best possible way.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Video Willie on August 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover
WOW, wish I had Mr. Ferry as my teacher for Creative Writing. This book keeps your interest. Jumps between real and illusion until you question yourself on what you see and hear real or not. Can't wait till his next novel comes out.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Steve Lawson on November 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Picked this up at O'Hare (sorry, Amazon). Used to live in Chicago, knew some of the settings. Sure, I'm interested in teaching, the nature and devices of fiction, the relationship between truth and art, etc.

The writing is pellucid, if a bit plain, the story initially engrossing. The book does not promise to be a mystery, but the mystery at its heart is an interesting one. Flying through it.

When I got to the travelogues, I thought hmm, this somehow must relate to the author's/main character's obsession, this will be interesting. But each of them ultimately felt like pieces Mr. Ferry had sitting about, or had published with nowhere else to collect them. They brought the book to a halt. This ain't Moby Dick; observational asides with without an apparent (nor, as nearly as I could tell, a submerged) nexus with the action of the novel come across not as charming, but as self-consciously literary.

And when reality and fiction finally merge, in the book's climactic scene (it wasn't climactic enough -- the thing continues on to yet another travel snippet with a punchline before it comes to an end) -- well, it's trivial, and seems to be: "Storytelling isn't really the truth, but it sort of is, and does it matter?" The drama is missing; the author/main character didn't learn a thing during the course of this novel -- no, the author is intending to instruct us, and it feels lecturely throughout. (And this guy and his chums have lots, I mean lots, of sex with numerous partners. They don't learn much from that, either.)

So, after a promising beginning, it felt a little like one of those long jokes that you're praying will pay off, and ends up being an acceptable joke, but without that "aha" moment that the joketeller was hoping for.
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