Back from Polynesian Paradise…

(It’s a hard life I lead, I know.)

I’m back and trying to catch up at work and home. I will write more when I have my bearings back, but for right now, here is a brief review of the 2013 edition of the Best American Travel Writing (editor: Elizabeth Gilbert).

As other anthologies tend to be, this one was a mixed bag of good and mediocre writing, but it seemed as though this one had a higher number of good essays than has the case in the past few years. I also noticed that it hadn’t fallen into the pattern of having mostly (sometimes all) male writers, perhaps because this collection was edited by a woman? Who knows. I was just happy to see this difference.

There were several really good essays, one by Ian Frazier about his travels to Siberia, another by a writer who covers the pirate-related history of New Orleans (which was fascinating), and another about a writer who visits Afghanistan and covers their cock-fighting culture. The exotic was mixed with the banal as well, as one essay considers the benefits of always returning to the same place as a vacation, so it’s a pretty good mix in that way.

This is a collection of mostly high-caliber writing that covers all different aspects of travel writing (including both going and staying) and was a good  book to pick up and put down. Just know that a couple of the essays are clunkers.

There was this interesting quote in Elizabeth Gilbert’s introduction to the essay collection, and I’m going to paraphrase here. It’s about writing a story or reporting something non-fiction and says that “no story is automatically interesting – only the telling makes it so. The proper mandate of a writer is to make things interesting…”

This really struck a chord with me as some of the subjects that I would like to write about are interesting to me, but perhaps not to others. So my job is to make them interesting (nay, riveting) to the average reader so that they will want to read and finish them. I love a challenge.


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