- Series: Best American Travel Writing
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Mariner Books; First Edition edition (October 1, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0618118829
- ISBN-13: 978-0618118823
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 15.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #589,176 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Best American Travel Writing 2003 Paperback – October 1, 2003
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"Travelers . . . will adore this collection, since most of the essays concern unorthodox voyages." -- Review
About the Author
JASON WILSON is the drinks columnist at the Washington Post, the series editor of The Smart Set, and the author of Boozehound: On The Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated. He teaches at Drexel University.
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There are three pieces that stand out for me. The first one is called 'Getting Jiggy' and it is about folks who get together on the Seattle area piers and jig for squid. The piece reads like a funny ethnography.
The second piece is called 'The Forest Primeval' and is a reprint from the original in Harpers Magazine. It is about the Congo - - its people, politics, animals, and current issues. The article describes the horrific problems with forest elephant poaching. To date, 700,000 elephants have been poached from this area., Because elephants are the kingpin of forest life, the entire ecological system is off-balance. There is also a lot of violence in the Congo. "Every Tom, Dick and Harry has an AK 47". This is one of the reasons that forest elephants are being killed at such a high rate. I learned that elephants are able to communicate by infrasound below the range of human hearing. This way they are able to avoid human contact. Forest elephants look different from Savannah elephants as they have chocolate brown skin. They also have a different diet. I learned that chimps can mimic antelope calls in order to trap and kill them - - not so different from human beings. Between the logging, civil wars and poaching, much of the forest is gone except for designated wildlife areas. I found this the most interesting article in the book, by far.
Another essay I enjoyed is called 'Power Trip'. It is about a woman who enjoys going to freakish places. She once went on a free trip to a mayonnaise factory. She is now planning to go on a free trip to a nuclear power plant. I don't think that a nuclear power plant is particularly freaky but it is a pretty freaky way to spend one's vacation.
I think Ian Frazier did a good job of picking out diverse and interesting articles for this collection.
At least 50% of the articles dwell on environmental or social causes. Yes, I suppose the writers had to travel somewhere to get their data, but their essays are not about travel; rather, they are about causes.
I will hope that, for 2004, the series publishers get a handle on things and place social essays in the "Best American Essays..." collection and reserve the Travel volume for just that.
Scott Carrier witnesses the Afghan view of war and life in Mazar-e-Sharif and makes a harrowing road trip to bombed-out Kabul, while Andrew Solomon, there for much the same purpose, discovers the wonders of Afghan food and hospitality.
Ecological warriors are the focus of Patrick Symmes' "Blood Wood," and Tom Clynes' "They Shoot Poachers, Don't They?" Symmes journeys along the Brazilian Amazon meeting fierce and endangered activists striving to stem the lucrative, illegal, and often deadly mahogany trade. Clynes reports on American conservationists in the Central African Republic. "Their mission was to drive out the marauding gangs of Sudanese poachers who were rapidly wiping out the region's elephants and other animals. Their authority: shoot on sight."
There are pieces on journeys made for their own sake, but these are no vacations. Lawrence Millman has a funny, scary piece on being stranded on an uncharted, uninhabited desert island - in the arctic. And Kira Salak follows the trail of doomed early-19th century explorer Mungo Park, paddling 600 miles down the sometimes very hostile Niger River in an inflatable kayak.
For lighthearted contrast there's Michael Specter's profile of rapper Puff Daddy, now a fashion designer, in Paris for Fashion Week, and Lisa Anne Auerback's "Pope on a Tow Rope," exploring Pope John Paul II's Polish skiing days.
Off the beaten track and often intense, from Wilmington, Delaware to Timbuktu, this all-around fine compilation has all-around appeal.
Skip this book. If you want a collection of stories resplendent with what it is that calles to a traveller's soul, try Wanderlust from the editors of Salon.com.