Monday, January 21, 2008

"All writers struggle, very few manage to get published, and almost none are any good. It's the 'believing' part that's the trick."

I almost put down Chuck Thompson's smile when you're lying: confessions of a rogue travel writer before i was 50 pages into it with the intention of never finishing it (which is something i rarely do~sometimes i will put down a book with every intention of finishing it and not ever doing so but for some reason i often plow through many as i ended up doing with this one~and there were a few interesting parts~more than a few in actuality...) It was Thompson's caustic personality that put me off more than anything (not that i know him or anything, but since this a non-fiction piece that he narrates i did get some sense of the guy and i don't think i liked him much~and he doesn't seem to like much of anything~tho maybe i'm getting him all wrong~he admits that many of the people he now counts as friends"apparently had to overcome some initial repugnance toward my supposedly radioactive personality." And i have come to really like a few people i absolutely hated upon first, second and third impression...)
But, shall we get back to the book? I can't remember why i picked it up (are you getting sick of hearing that from me?) I think perhaps because i like reading travel narratives (and no, Chuck, not the rhapsodizing, sunny type that the travel editors demand~as you argue in this book~and i do believe you, there~but the book type that describe the good and the bad) and this one purported to describe the "real story" from someone who had been to many, many places. Alas 'twas not to be.
This included less description of travel and more bitching about life and politics than much of what i've read of late. He describes experiences teaching English in Japan, traveling in Southeast Asia, some in former Soviet bloc countries and that seems to be about it (well there is a bit more but mostly it is just opinion spouting~he hates the Caribbean and really likes Latin America.) I must give Thompson credit for a sense of humour and there are a few bits worth reading as well as a few bits that were a little enlightening (and i suppose it's good every now and then to read things that just plain piss you off~more than just occasionally in fact.) There are a few travel tips most of which are common sense, some of which are silly and stupid, some of which are very helpful (rubbing batteries on your leg for a few extra hours of static electric charge~never knew...). The book takes a truly ugly and surprising turn at the end talking about the possible end of oil-dependent energy, which while true, seemed out of place.
Thompson does describe some of his youth in Juneau, Alaska (been there, done that~NOT to be confused with Anchorage as some reviewers have done~Thompson would be appalled) Alaska he describes as the whitest state in the nation (Utah being the second) having lived in both i would have to agree somewhat (that is IF you are excluding Native Americans and Hispanics which i suppose he is...) this is a very personal account about much more than travel (and very little travel at that. Mostly rant, rant, rant about anything and everything. I didn't absolutely hate it though. From what i can gather Thompson is about the same age (and i didn't disagree with everything he said~and i haven't been to many of the places he describes so i can't have an opinion on much of that...) as me so you would think we would have more in common (and perhaps we do~i often wonder exactly how unlikeable i am, and for that matter~exactly how parenthetical i can become...)

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