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Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer Paperback – Bargain Price, November 27, 2007

3.5 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Travel writers lie, argues Thompson, and their editors not only know and excuse it, but demand it. As laid out in this vivid and ribald memoir by veteran travel writer Thompson—a former editor of Maxim and Travelocity.com's short-lived print magazine—the industry is packed to the rafters with hacks churning out the same reheated swill for thinly disguised advertorial copy in glossy magazines. Sick of leaving the most interesting material on the cutting-room floor, Thompson slashes through the clichés of the travel industry's snake-oil salesmen with unmitigated glee. The Caribbean is a miasmic hellscape. The supposed narcoterrorist danger zone, Colombia, is a wonderful place with wonderful people (But who buys magazines to read that?). And the widely respected Lonely Planet guidebooks have ruined more travel destinations than have the tourists its writers sermonize against. If all Thompson was aiming for had been caustic observations about the industry he knows from the inside out, the book would have been an amusing but limited experience. But Thompson weaves his take on the travel racket and the damage it does into an engagingly personal narrative about his own nomadic life, tossing out raucous anecdotes about teaching ESL in a remote Japanese town or snorting cocaine with fellow staffers in the Alaska House of Representatives. (Dec.)
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Review

“[Thompson] knows the score and he tallies it accurately. ... A dead-on demolition job. ... The book is a savagely funny act of revenge.”—The New York Times

“Impassioned, funny, and uniquely honest.”—Esquire

“Consistently irreverent, Thompson is wickedly entertaining ... reminiscent of Chuck Klosterman and David Foster Wallace. ... The unvarnished reality in these pages might just make you more eager than ever to hit the road.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“If there is such a pastime as extreme tourism, Chuck Thompson is surely its guru.”—Boston Globe

“Thompson is the real thing, a travel writer in the sense that Mark Twain or Hunter S. Thompson was, and Redmond O'Hanlon is. He’s a travel writer like Anthony Bourdain is a food writer. He’s a travel writer for people who don't much like travel writing.”—The Oregonian

“A rare victim’s-eye view into the world of travel marketing and the nervous, unmoored corporate weenies who populate it. ... fascinating reading, in a plane-crash sort of way.”—Washington Post

Smile When You're Lying could do for the travel industry what The Tipping Point did for the tipping point industry.”—Joe Queenan

“(Thompson’s) prose is quick and witty; it’s like sitting down over a beer with the most experienced traveler you’ll ever meet.”—Aspen Times Weekly

“My three favorite travel writers of all time are Robert Louis Stevenson, Graham Greene, and Chuck Thompson. Smile When You're Lying not only tells the truth about the travel-writing racket, it gets to the heart of some of the travel industry’s best-kept secrets.”—Kinky Friedman

“More than confessions of a veteran gallivanter … an indictment of those who would prettify the world … full of trenchant truisms.”—Los Angeles Times

“An aggressively funny account of the world from an acerbic, energetic professional traveler who tells it like he sees it and has no reservations about sharing his stockpile of outrageous (mis)adventures and advice…. At his best, this Thompson will remind readers of Hunter S.—provocative and thoroughly engaging, with a manic liveliness.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Thompson’s weapons are wit, a well-oiled subversive reflex and a defiantly unbuttoned prose style.”—The New York Observer

“Vivid and ribald…. If all Thompson was aiming for had been caustic observations about the industry he knows from the inside out, the book would have been an amusing but limited experience. But Thompson weaves his take on the travel racket and the damage it does into an engagingly personal narrative about his own nomadic life…”—Publishers Weekly

“Thought-provoking … laughing at [Thompson’s] stories caused pain.”—Salt Lake Tribune

“Bitingly funny … as much as Thompson loves to play the curmudgeon, a reader can tell that through it all, he still loves to travel, despite, or perhaps because of, all the challenges.”—The Columbus Dispatch

“A great storyteller with an unusual tolerance level for adventure.”—The Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin)

“Witty prose entertains as it educates...the perfect read for a long plane ride.”—Seattle Magazine

“Highly recommended.”—Calgary Herald

“Fascinating and frequently hilarious, thanks to Thompson’s wicked sense of humor.”—Portland Mercury

“Reading Thompson is like listening to a buddy who shoots from the hip. Although readers may not always agree with Thompson's conclusions ... they will recognize an authentic voice on the subject of travel when they encounter it.”—Booklist

“Thought provoking political commentary … will keep you entertained even as it makes you think.”—Ramblingtraveler.com

 

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 324 pages
  • Publisher: Holt Paperbacks; First Edition edition (November 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805082093
  • ASIN: B0058M5ZU0
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,129,481 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very funny, insightful, and highly literate book. It's really not just about travel. It's part humor, part polemic, part memoir and it is this variation of narrative that served to hold my interest from start to finish. It's also peopled with some great characters--which gives it a depth that very few travel books have.

Thompson can be savage at times, but his targets in just about every case deserve what he dishes out. For example, The Lonely Planeteers have had it coming for a long time for a level of smugnesss that borders on dementia--and Thompson gives it to 'em good!

The section on hackneyed travel writing was one of my favorite parts ("a bewitching blend of the ancient and modern") and should be mandatory reading not just for travel writers, but for ALL writers-- sort of a humorous "Politics and the English Language" for travel writing.

But it's not just venom. Other parts show a real affection for the people and places that the writer has encountered outside of the disneyfied destinations that disappoint us all.

Highly recommended on any level but especially great for a long plane trip.
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Every once in a long while a razor sharp writer comes along worthy of being added to that short list of smart, hilarious, one-of-a-kinds in the mainly hacked to death travel lit arena. Chuck Thompson is my vote for 2008. Smile When You're Lying is not for the faint-hearted. You probably won't see Thompson on Oprah this year, and if you're looking for a warm, fuzzy, found-myself-in-Bhutan-and-Tuscany holiday read, you're in for a shock. But if you want to laugh your head off while being led behind the iron curtain of travel industry gloss by a guy who's logged his share of dollar-a-word time in junket boot camp - you'd be very wise to read this book. And you'll be even wiser after reading it. Thompson's well-argued manifesto about the pallid fantasy of travel journalism is contrarian but self-deprecating, soap-box free and most importantly very very funny. And supported by his own wildly varied experiences in the field. His whac-a-mole, memoir-style route around the globe (Alaska, Philippines, some hellhole in Germany etc.) is filled with savvy insights you won't find in a library of Lonely Planets (which get their due here too). A wildly refreshing read from a seasoned traveler with the cojones to compare teaching English in Japan to making panda babies (just read the book and you'll get it) and opining that all the Caribbean really needs is a fresh coat of paint and ten years without tourists. Highly recommended.
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Excerpts from a review I posted on my site, [...]

After years of writing sugarcoated articles about his travels, Chuck Thompson is rebelling against travel's airbrushed image with Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer. His confessions include brutally honest opinions of the travel industry, tourists, and expats, all wrapped up in a reality that you won't find in glossy travel magazines.

An easy read that will keep you entertained even as it makes you think, Smile When You're Lying is a good book for anyone who likes to travel and doesn't get put off by some colorful language or explicit stories. If some of his rants get too negative or cynical, he does a good job of balancing them out with humorous stories. One of my favorite quotes from the book is "... a Zen-like acceptance of travel as a highly unpredictable animal is the most effective way of approaching it." The same could be said of this book.
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Gearing up for a business trip this was my selection that I thought would be a light, humorous, read along the lines of Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" for the travel world. At first, I thought I had got it right but the book quickly sputters, fizzles, and nosedives into flaming wreckage. It's almost hard to decide where to start this review, there were a few laughs up front and then it degenerates into a self-deprecating mess at times and a self-aggrandizing mess at others, then it derails into some lengthy discourses on the Philippines that manage to go nowhere. The anecdotes slowly begin to have less in the way of endings or points at all and it becomes almost painful to finish.

I love to travel and I love to travel far off the beaten path, I don't reach for glossy travel/ad magazines because none of the places I go or stay would ever be in one. I thought the author was going to have similar tastes, and I think he *thinks* he does, but he doesn't. He thinks all travel writers are shills or idiots and he is the only one to set them all straight but instead he gives a masterclass in failure. I think he is actually so used to lying and the game of being a travel writer that he truly doesn't know how to actually travel.

It ends up a mish-mash of a couple funny tales, a long detour into his ESL days in Japan that aren't very interesting or noteworthy, a longer detour into his failed foray in a travel magazine which is less interesting, and then a hobbled together "ending" of lame high school stories and poorly told anecdotes with a touch of poorly told history tossed in for good measure. He manages to make a story of almost being raped by a machete-wielding local so boring I was hoping for a bad outcome.

Skip this and read "The Sex Lives of Cannibals" by Troost. You'll thank me.
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