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Wanderlust: Real-Life Tales of Adventure and Romance Paperback – November 7, 2000
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"Travel writers are romantics," writes contributor Wendy Belcher, and if there is a common chord to the 40 essays in this collection culled from Salon.com's "Wanderlust" section, it's that a majority of the authors find a certain ardor in exotic locations perceived with curious and eager eyes. Some find it in the literal sense--Maxine Rose Schur reminisces about being passionate and penniless in Paris, Laura Fraser finds the perfect Italian lover to help her forget the husband who's abandoned her, and Simon Winchester charms a Romanian girl with his borrowed Rolls Royce. In pursuit of luxury, Po Bronson loses his Club Med virginity to go activity-surfing at the Turkoise Club. Then there's inspiration--Isabelle Allende travels to the Amazon in the hopes of ending a three-year writing block and David Kohn, well, he gets to sample the best pork ribs at the Memphis World Barbecue Cooking Contest. There are certainly satisfactions in these tales, if only as small vicarious thrills (originally tailored for the Web, they are indeed short and sweet). In truth, however, the real gems take travel and travel writing a little more seriously, or perhaps a little less, with an ever-present eye out for the ironies that plague travelers. Wendy Belcher's insightful essay does not actually dwell on romance but the embarrassment of discovering virtually all travel books about Africa open the same way, including hers. Tim Cahill makes clear the chasm between our lives and others when he experiences reverse culture shock in New York City after living with a remote tribe in South America. And in some truly hilarious reports, Susan Hack goes on a desperate hunt for Tampax in Yemen, Rolf Potts attempts to infiltrate the set of a Leonardo DiCaprio movie in Thailand, and Douglas Cruickshank takes a decadent blitzkrieg through England ("Indeed, the scene is so excruciatingly exquisite that I've got a good mind to call Mr. Merchant and Mr. Ivory and tell them to get their softly lit Panavision asses up here.") While travel writers may be romantics, thank goodness they can also be great fun. --Lesley Reed
From Publishers Weekly
Since Salon.com shut down its Wanderlust section earlier this year (there weren't enough page views to satisfy investors) and since George, the section's editor, has been reduced to contributing a weekly column, this collection preserves in print articles that were likely to become Internet ephemera. The 40 stories are tuned for the computer-screen reader: they are all quick, attention-grabbing, first-person narrativesAas short and direct as a shot of espresso. One-third come from well-known writers, including a handful of brand-name travel writers such as Jan Morris, Peter Mayle, Pico Iyer, Tim Cahill and even Tony Wheeler, the founder of the Lonely Planet guidebooks. The others come from Salon's multifaceted contributors, many of whom have published books of their own. The best work here uses irony to convey the complex nature of travel in the age of the Internet, when much of the world is only a mouse click away. Rolf Potts's story "Storming the Beach," for example, contains daily e-mail dispatches about the author's attempt to replicate the events of Alex Garland's novel The Beach by substituting the fictional beach with the actual Thai beach where a film of the novel is being shot. "The Last Tourist in Mozambique" details Mary Roach's discovery that it is easier to get the country's president to talk about transcendental meditation than it is to convert dollars into local currency. Salon has always been a self-consciously literary Web site, so it is no surprise that these stories survive the transition from the computer screen to the printed page. But the shutdown of the site's Wanderlust section may limit the readership for this pleasant anthology. (Nov.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
It's rare that I read a travel book. It's like taking a "busman's holiday" since I'm on the road 95% of the year but this book looked too funny not to buy!
What impressed me most with this book is that each author was able to put such simple truth into each story while injecting humor. I found that after reading the book... I learned a little more about the regions the authors traveled to and have realized how jaded we are in the US. There's not a simple drug store on every corner. Nor is there a need for the bright lights on every trip. Each experience is unique and described as such.
A very easy read that will have you laughing and learning!
As with any anthology, you will enjoy some essays more than others. Some of my favorites were Taras Grescoe's Absinthe Makes the Heart Grow Fonder about drinking powerful absinthe in Spain, one of the few countries where it is still legally sold; How to Buy a Turkish Rug by Laura Billings about how the experience of haggling over a carpet was more important than the carpet itself; and Laura Fraser's Italian Affair, in which she actually pulls off the feat of writing the whole thing in the second person and makes it work.
Other outstanding entries include Tampax Nightmares by Susan Hack about finding tampons in countries that frown upon such evil devices; The Last Tourist in Mozambique by Mary Roach, who does yoga with the president; and Lisa Michaels's The Man Who Loved Books in Turkey about packing books for the journey and what happens to the books you leave behind.
I love to read anthologies, especially travel anthologies. You get to read some old favorites, read new pieces by authors you like, and discover new writers. Don George is always dependable as editor. In addition to this collection, try his A House Somewhere and The Kindness of Strangers.
So observes Pico Iyer at the end of his foreword to this magical collection, adding that the above is also the reason that "the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end. "Anyone who has traveled at least a bit, who has loved at least once, or who is ready to be transformed should read this book. High praise is due Don George and Salon.com for gathering such a stirring and tantalizing collection of writings together: in forty short pieces not one dull or sappy note is struck.
For romance, the standouts of this collection are Maxine Rose Schur's "Passionate and Penniless in Paris," about the time she spent with her husband living in a van by the Quai de la Tournelle; Simon Winchester's "Romance in Romania" where the Rolls Royce he happens to be driving brings both him and a young Romanian girl into a beautiful moment that takes its romance from its very fleetingness; Iyer's own short, musical "Bewitched in Bali"; "Fade Into Blue," written in the third person by Amanda Jones; and most memorable of all, Laura Fraser's "Italian Affair," one of the most personal pieces in the book, but written completely in the second person (let's just say it begins with "Let's say your husband leaves you" and ends with her discovery of "la bella vita").
Notable for their adventurous qualities are Bill Belleville's "Looking for Mr.Read more ›
The item about African writing is an excellent source for other books, new and old, of memoirs of traveling in Africa, not travel guides.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I bought the book randomly for light end of summer reading. It was a good pick. Enjoyed practically every contribution.Published on October 14, 2013 by Wing Luk Seto
I quite enjoy travel stories, and this collection is a fun read. I dipped in now and then. Some of the stories are sublime, while others are just so-so. Well worth a read though.Published on September 10, 2011 by Jambo
No doubt this is a great compilation but too much on European destinations. Even so anything by Salon. Read morePublished on September 19, 2002 by Brian Maitland
A fantastic book from a fantastic website. The stories from Europe seem strongest, including Bill Barich in Italy, Maxine Rose Schur in France, and Simon Winchester in Romania,... Read morePublished on October 9, 2001 by Jeff Lewis
Travel books are the only books I make time to read these days and I read about 30 of them a year. I've just finished this one and have put it on my top ten list. Read morePublished on September 2, 2001 by Gregory Hopkins
I finished Wanderlust yesterday, and in reading Joe Haschka's review, he picked out both my favorite essays in this collection and the ones I found insufferable. Read morePublished on April 25, 2001 by Allison Feliciano
Like all other anthologies of travel stories, WANDERLUST's collected essays will each have a purely subjective appeal based on the predilections of the reader. Read morePublished on April 17, 2001 by Mr. Joe
Salon's "Wanderlust" section was always my favorite part of Salon -- even more so than "Sex":). Read morePublished on January 26, 2001 by Susannah Indigo
This book, like everything that comes out of Salon.com, is fun, has a youthful vibe and is full of interesting essays. Read morePublished on January 17, 2001 by John Kepford