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December 11, 2009 12:21 AM   Subscribe

If there's one genre you have to read before you die it's the travel book
Standard guidebook: "Should you be caught up in a frenzied riot during your time in Jakarta, make your way immediately to your country's embassy. Once inside, relax with one of the native beverages, and think about what a great story you'll have to tell Andy and Rhona on your return."
Hip guidebook:"Should you be caught up in a frenzied riot during your time in Jakarta, consider yourself fortunate to witness the valid cultural expression of a wonderfully passionate race. Feel free to hurl a Molotov cocktail at the riot squad."
(via Jorn>
posted by caddis (27 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't understand what all the hate is about. Travel is one of the most transformative experiences a person can have. Who wouldn't want to read about it? Maybe these folks have never picked up anything by Mark Twain or William Least-Heat Moon.
posted by Roman Graves at 12:50 AM on December 11, 2009


Riding the Iron Rooster is one of my favorite books, and yes, it's about someone elses travels (and yeah, Theroux blah blah). It's dated, and some of his opinons are a touch unpleasant when read now, but you know what? I read that book after having lived in China, and I was able, occasionally, to say hey, I was on that train, I know exactly what he's talking about. The parts where I couldn't say that made me want to return, so I could see what he was talking about for myself.

Of course, folks should feel free to snark on travel. Their absence at the check-in gate makes everything go faster for the rest of us.
posted by Ghidorah at 1:08 AM on December 11, 2009 [5 favorites]


I thought it was quite droll. Genuine hate towards travel was not what I got out of it.
posted by slimepuppy at 1:34 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


I agree with the comments on the Guardian. It thought it was funny, you wanted it to be funny, it was *so* not funny.
posted by Lleyam at 1:35 AM on December 11, 2009


I agree. As someone who had a love/loathing (good old-fashioned love/hate isn't good enough) for Lonely Planet, I was primed for a good satire. This misses the mark on all counts.
posted by kanewai at 1:59 AM on December 11, 2009


Travel books are to travelling as paint-by-numbers books are to art. Thank you caddis, I found the article spot on.
posted by dearsina at 2:10 AM on December 11, 2009


Hey they Hunter S. Thompson bit was pretty good:

"Far-gone cats crazy for kicks tumbling down that golden highway toward the ocean and God knows what whiskey and revolver dreams of the open road and God's dark holy country most righteous groove into the black heart of that black-topped highway leading to the ends of the bounteous earth and her dark belly to hold dusty broken travellers tumbling that cold locomotive to death and infamy."


Please do not Metafilter: Far-gone cats crazy for kicks tumbling down that golden highway toward the ocean and God knows what whiskey and revolver dreams of the open road and God's dark holy country most righteous groove into the black heart of that black-topped highway leading to the ends of the bounteous earth and her dark belly to hold dusty broken travellers tumbling that cold locomotive to death and infamy." that.
posted by Telf at 2:15 AM on December 11, 2009


Metafilter: Please do not Metafilter.
(couldn't resist)

I laughed. It was quite funny. Great job of capturing the inanity of bad travelogue:

"June 14: Bought ticket for Bruges at Gare du Nord. Ticket-seller unfriendly: railway staff are the same all over the world. Looking forward to seeing Belgium. I've heard it's quite like Holland, only more Belgian."

posted by Ndwright at 2:33 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Telf: That's pretty much a straight Kerouac parody, by the way, Thompson's prose doesn't really resemble that.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:34 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


Along the Ankh with Bow, Rod and Staff with a Knob on the End was definitely a magical read.
posted by maxwelton at 3:09 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's frustrating, because the blog post would have been useful if it had actually pointed out examples of the books in question. Instead, it was just a meta-critic blah blah look at how silly all these books are.

Well screw you, Mr. Blogger, those genre's appeal to me, and I want to know what's a good book to read to prepare myself for hiking the famous pilgrimage trails in Japan with a backpack and candy bars.
posted by onalark at 3:10 AM on December 11, 2009


It's meant to be funny – and out of compassion, you really want it to be funny – but it never actually is funny.

This.
posted by jonesor at 3:33 AM on December 11, 2009


One of the most nifty parodies of the genre was actually published back in 1930, and had extremely clever fun with BOTH the "safari memoir and the layperson's medical compendium'".

Titled "Through the Alimentary Canal with Gun and Camera" it was by Walter E. Traprock, who was really writer and architect, George S. Chappell.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 4:30 AM on December 11, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't care for travelouges, and I haven't even clicked the linked sources in this post. But reading the Hunter S Thompson parody of Mr. Kerouac makes me really want to go back and re-read Kerouac-- so that I may have a better understanding of that body of work that I read so closely as a younger version of me.
posted by localhuman at 5:03 AM on December 11, 2009


From the comments:
...your entry is comedy gold (it made it to MetaFilter)

Good luck convincing middle England!
Someone around here (and there) is confused about a number of things.
posted by i_cola at 5:04 AM on December 11, 2009


I've only read the first of these, but it was wonderful.
posted by stargell at 5:17 AM on December 11, 2009


Huh. I thought it was funny. And it seems a little bizarre to equate snarking about travel writing with snarking about travel.
posted by craichead at 5:29 AM on December 11, 2009


No mention of Down and Out in Paris and London by Orwell, I see. That book single-handedly changed the way I looked at homelessness, and is a fantastically engaging bit of travel writing to boot.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:30 AM on December 11, 2009 [4 favorites]


Full of useless information such as... and which sexual acts can have you imprisoned in Montevideo.

I don't know, that strikes me as pretty useful.
posted by Target Practice at 6:49 AM on December 11, 2009


which sexual acts can have you imprisoned in Montevideo

Uruguay or Minnesota?
posted by gimonca at 7:06 AM on December 11, 2009


Paul Theroux. Read everything he wrote and you can forget about the fucking Bucket List.
posted by kozad at 7:22 AM on December 11, 2009


Full of useless information such as... and which sexual acts can have you imprisoned in Montevideo.

I can tell you which ones will do it in Blockbuster Video.
posted by Legomancer at 7:36 AM on December 11, 2009 [2 favorites]


Those Bucket List books are horrid things. Perfect for the friend who's got everything except a healthy sense of futility.

"You think you accomplished much in your life, but did you ever eat yak in Nepal?"

"...no. Shit. My entire life's a waste. Thanks, Bucket List!"
posted by Spatch at 7:52 AM on December 11, 2009


"Cosmopoli"? If you're not already aware of this, take note: any English word that ends in polis is probably derived from the Greek word, and the plural is poleis. Therefore, the plural of "cosmopolis" is "cosmopoleis." If you're not a pedant, feel free to use the incorrect but understandable "cosmopolises," but, for the love of God, stay away from abominations like "cosmopoli," which imply a Latin root that isn't there.
posted by Electrius at 8:01 AM on December 11, 2009


We can get some better travel satire.
posted by Jilder at 8:09 AM on December 11, 2009


Telf: That's pretty much a straight Kerouac parody, by the way, Thompson's prose doesn't really resemble that.

I disagree slightly, but fair enough.
posted by Telf at 8:35 AM on December 11, 2009


Good quicky satire of the travel genre (if such a thing can be defined). There are other forms of course, this is just a small number.

The greatest satire of travel literature is Gulliver's Travels, it's been a joke ever since.
posted by stbalbach at 2:30 PM on December 11, 2009


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