Archive for the Travel Writers Category

Empty Tombs: A Q&A with Tom Bissell

Posted in Books, Clips, Travel, Travel Writers, Writers on March 29, 2016 by frankbures

apostle-cover_250From MinnPost:

For five years, writer Tom Bissell worked on a novel about the Apostle John, before he resigned himself to the fact that his “half historical, half contemporary” account was not going to work.

He set it aside, but one fact stuck in his mind: John’s tomb was located in Turkey and was supposedly empty — the only remains of the Twelve Apostles unaccounted for. Later while he was serving in the Peace Corps in Uzbekistan he heard rumors that Matthew’s remains were in nearby Kyrgyzstan. Where were the others?

From this question grew the idea for a travel book on the Apostolic tombs, and for the next few years Bissell traveled through Jerusalem, Greece, Italy, Turkey, France, Spain India, Turkey and Kyrgyzstan as a sort of doubting pilgrim who wanted to “explore the legendary encrustation upon twelve lives about which little else is known and even less can be historically verified.”

Read the rest here.

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Branding Guyana: The Rise and Fall of Travel Writing

Posted in Clips, Travel, Travel Writers, Writing on August 28, 2014 by frankbures

Guyana Cover copyFrom Nowhere Magazine:

It was winter in Minnesota, and I was leaving the ice and snow behind. Everyone on our plane was giddy about this. In front of me, several women in sweatpants were heading south for weeklong cruises. They sang Beach Boys songs at the top of their lungs: “ARUBA, JAMAICA, OOOH I WANNA TAKE YA!!!

But I wasn’t going to Kokomo. I was flying to Guyana, a small, poor country on the northeast coast of South America. As I settled into my seat, the woman next to me turned to chat.

“So,” she said, “have you cruised before?” She was middle-aged, with a family of five in tow.

“No.” I said. “You?”

“We have,” she said. “We love it, and it’s super cheap! Hang on…” She turned to the window and snapped a picture of a baggage car. “Gotta put the vacation on Facebook! So what do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“That’s neat. What do you write?”

“Some travel writing…and other things.”

“Oh, cool!” she gushed. “We love House Hunters International!”

10411991_10152666085686796_8321901077672506435_nI reached for the SkyMall. The engines roared and the white world fell away. Soon my seatmate and almost everyone else on the plane would get off in Florida to be whisked away for weeks of pampered drifting on the Caribbean. I would continue south. Guyana is a place, unlike Aruba or Jamaica, not on anyone’s list of dream destinations. A few months earlier, I’d gotten an email asking if I wanted to visit. The note was from a company contracting development work from USAID. One of its projects was to rebrand the tiny, corrupt nation and promote ecotourism. I knew the catch.

Read the rest here.

Strange Stones (Review)

Posted in Asia, Books, Clips, Travel Writers on April 21, 2014 by frankbures

SSFrom The Rotarian:

In the hills outside the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, writer Peter Hessler found himself at a restaurant specializing in a particular delicacy: rat. Not everyday city rat, but freshly caught mountain rat, the kind that spends its days eating the fruits of the forest.

This is typical of the places Hessler likes to take his readers – that is, wherever ordinary people are eating, joking, talking, living. He spent 10 years in China after arriving there as a Peace Corps volunteer in the mid-1990s, and his books, including River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze and Oracle Bones, led to a MacArthur “genius” grant in 2011. His newest book, Strange Stones: Dispatches From East and West (Harper Perennial, 2013), is a collection of stories set in China, in rural Colorado (where he and his wife moved in 2007), and in Japan.

Read the rest here.

“Italian Ways” (Review)

Posted in Books, Clips, Travel Writers on December 30, 2013 by frankbures

urlFrom The Rotarian:

Some of my most enduring memories from my time as a student in Italy are of being on trains. Many of those memories involve me giving the conductor my ticket, only to have him inform me that I had the wrong type of ticket, the wrong seat, or the wrong time. It’s a feeling Tim Parks channels brilliantly in Italian Ways: On and Off the Rails from Milan to Palermo (W.W. Norton & Co., 2013), which is as much about the Italian railroads as it is about Italy itself.

Like his other books, Italian Ways is the perfect corrective to the sun-dappled travelogues that have colonized our idea of the country. Parks has lived in Italy for 30 years, and his deep knowledge, keen observational powers, and masterful writing make him possibly the best writer on the country working today.

Read the rest here.

Travels in the Real Nigeria: Looking for Transwonderland

Posted in Africa, Arts in Africa, Books, Clips, Travel Writers on August 31, 2012 by frankbures

My review over at The New Republic:

NIGERIA HAS AN unsavory, and largely undeserved, reputation in the United States: the home of scammers trying to bilk Grandma out of her life savings. Yet across Africa, Nigerians are also loathed and feared by their neighbors from smaller, more unassuming countries—states without Nigeria’s surplus of bravado. These passionate responses are no doubt partly because Nigeria is itself a place of strong passions. Nigerians—so the conventional wisdom goes—tend to be brash, confident, loud, and warm (the Italians of Africa, you might say), and they have fanned out to every corner of the globe. Surely these overstatements regarding Nigeria’s national character have to do with something fundamental: very little has been written about the country in a straightforward, nonfictional but personal way—which is why the publication of Noo Saro-Wiwa’s new book (the first book of travel writing about Nigeria in a hundred years) is welcome and overdue.

There are few people in the world with reason to have stronger feelings about Nigeria than Saro-Wiwa, the daughter of the Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was hanged in 1995 by the dictator Sani Abacha for agitating against pollution and injustice in the Niger Delta.

Read the rest here.

On Pilgrimage, Authenticity and Travel in the Age of Abundance

Posted in Books, Clips, Travel Writers, World Hum on April 25, 2012 by frankbures

In 2009, Gideon Lewis-Kraus was hanging out in Berlin, with no particular idea of where to go or what to do next, when he got an email from Tom Bissell. Years earlier, the two had met in a bookstore where Lewis-Kraus was working, and they’d stayed in touch. Bissell reminded him that Lewis-Kraus had promised offhandedly to accompany him on the Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile, 1,300-year-old pilgrim’s route across Spain. So the two writers set off together. Their journey on the Camino was replete with drama, blisters and epiphanies, and afterward, Lewis-Kraus wanted more. He started looking up other pilgrimages, like the Shikoku pilgrimage in Japan and the Rosh Hashana pilgrimage in Ukraine, and he went, dutifully toting his never-finished copy of “Middlemarch.” These journeys now make up his new book, A Sense of Direction: Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful. Frank Bures talked to Lewis-Kraus at his home in Brooklyn, New York.

World Hum: It sounds weird to say that pilgrimages are hot, but it seems that pilgrimages are on the upswing. Is that your sense? And if so, what do you think is the draw for modern travelers?

Gideon Lewis-Kraus: This book started out as a series of emails from the Camino de Santiago, and after the first one, my friend Ralph wrote to me from Berlin and, half-jokingly, said that as long as I could find a way to argue that pilgrimage was the hottest new thing in international youth fashion, I probably had a book on my hands…

Read the interview here.

Paul Theroux’s Tao of Travel

Posted in Books, Clips, Travel, Travel Writers on November 2, 2011 by frankbures

For 50 years, Paul Theroux has been traveling the world, and writing about it. The author has penned some of the best-loved travel books of all time, including The Great Railway Bazaar and Sunrise with Seamonsters, as well as many other titles (more than 40 in total) informed by his journeys.

In The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road (Houghton Mifflin, 2011), Theroux steps back to ruminate on the act of travel itself. He has collected a half-century’s worth of insights in one volume, and added much more.

Read the rest here.