In the introduction to THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING 2000,
editor Bill Bryson states that "you don't necessarily have to go
far to achieve something memorable. You just have to be able to see
things in a different way." This difference of perspective is what
sets these writers apart from the pedestrian travel narrators. This
"best of the best" compilation is most assuredly that, a one-stop,
high quality cornucopia of great writing detailing mysterious
places and dangerous journeys that have you anxious to embark
immediately and, occasionally, feeling lucky you're making the
journey from the relative safety of your armchair via that magic
jet called the travel essay.
The continent of Africa is the setting for several pieces in this
volume. With cynical flair, Tim Cahill describes his hectic --- not
to mention extremely overcrowded --- journey down the Congo River
via "This Teeming Ark," and Mark Hertsgaard speaks of the beauty
and danger of "The Nile at Mile One." In the most harrowing of the
pieces, Mark Ross details an expedition gone horribly wrong in "The
Tom Clynes meets "The Toughest Trucker in the World" in Australia,
and Dave Eg gers finds that transportation is only a thumb away in
"Hitchhiker's Cuba," while Rolf Potts witnesses the lengths to
which Hollywood will travel in "Storming The Beach." Jeffrey Tayler
finds an impoverished and forgotten people in Russia who are
"Exiled Beyond Kilometer 101," while half a world away William T.
Vollman is privileged to watch a new Canadian territory come into
being in "The Very Short History of Nunavut." Closer to home, Bill
Buford's nerve-wracking night camped out in Central Park is
chronicled in "Lions and Tigers and Bears," and David Halberstam
mourns lost innocence in "Nantucket On My Mind."
>From the humor of Clive Irving's "The First Drink of the Day"
and P. J. O'Rourke's "Weird Karma" to the intensity of "From The
Wonderful People Who Brought You The Killing Fields" by Patrick
Symmes, the 25 essays in THE BEST AMERICAN TRAVEL WRITING 2000 have
something for every taste. Each selection embodies what series
editor Jason Wilson believes makes this unique genre shine:
"Travel writing is always about a specific moment in time. The
writer imbues that moment with everything that he or she has
experienced, observed, read, lived, bringing all of his or her
talent to bear on it. When focused on that one moment, great travel
writing can teach us something about the world no other genre can.
Perhaps travel writing's foremost lesson is this: we may never walk
this way again, and even if we do, we will never be the same people
as we are right now. Most important, the world we move through will
never be the same place again."
Reviewed by Vern Wiessner on January 21, 2011