I see that a lot of people say this isn't Bryson's best, and I'd say that's true. However, the format is not the same as any of his other books either...moreI see that a lot of people say this isn't Bryson's best, and I'd say that's true. However, the format is not the same as any of his other books either, and that should be taken into consideration. It's also frustrating as a travel book, because it has zero pictures. Still, Bryson paints a picture with words of all these interesting places and makes you want to experience them for yourself. I felt like I was taking a little vacation not just in space, but in time. (West Germany? Let's go!) I do wonder how many of the museums are still open, how many of the natural features are still as beautiful/unvisited as they were in 1981. I'm glad I read this; it was strangely fun.(less)
This was quite a good book, and I can see why Library Journal (or was it Booklist?) compared Tony Perrottet to Bill Bryson. It had all the elements of...moreThis was quite a good book, and I can see why Library Journal (or was it Booklist?) compared Tony Perrottet to Bill Bryson. It had all the elements of travel and history with a touch of humor and personal philosophizing. The subject was quite an interesting one, but the book was remarkably tame considering. Perrottet obviously had out his thesaurus and made every effort to write a book about sex without all the standard vocabulary. Even the descriptions that would seem relevant and, frankly, necessary to cover this topic (even in a scholarly way) were noticeably absent. (An entire chapter on the Marquis de Sade makes him seem a bit eccentric rather than the man whose name gives us the word "sadism.") Still, any adult should be able to put the pieces together, and his writing is very readable with a good conversational tone. (It was easy to focus on, for example, while my grandfather was watching tv and while eating lunch in a break room full of chatterers.) The one thing that was a big let down (and this is probably and unfortunately unavoidable comparison to Bryson) was Perrottet's surface treatment of his 8 subjects. His chapters were all fascinating and left me wanting to know more, and based on his commentary it seemed like he probably knew more and just didn't include it. He's such a tease, I could probably make a suitable sex joke right now to go with his subject matter... Despite the fact that he left me wanting more, I still thought this was an entertaining, engaging, informative book that was tastefully done considering the racy material, and I do look forward to reading his other books.(less)
I made it to page 156/334, so keep in mind I'm reviewing a little less than the first half of the book here (all of Italy and part of India). I kept t...moreI made it to page 156/334, so keep in mind I'm reviewing a little less than the first half of the book here (all of Italy and part of India). I kept trying and trying and trying. I hated it. I have never been so surprised at my reaction to a book. Normally, I read everything, like everything, and even the things I don't like usually have some redeeming qualities that compel me to finish. Not here. Plus I especially love travel writing, and this one seemed to have a promising concept. Make that doubly disappointing.
Firstly, Gilbert is as unlikeable of a narrator as I've ever read. I know this is supposed to be a journey of self-discovery, but I just wanted to shout, "GET OVER YOURSELF ALREADY!" There is way too much introspective twaddle next to no description of her travel. The only thing that indicates she's in Italy, for example, is that she eats pasta and uses the occasional Italian word. Otherwise, she could be anywhere. The narrative is inactive. Internal philosophizing can only take you so far, especially when you're overly fond of metaphors and clearly think you're much, much deeper than you actually are.
The "characters" (if you can call the people she meets that) are flat, flat, flat. Sofie is a pretty, petite, blond Swede. Period. Luca Spaghetti just has a funny last name, and no discernible character traits. They're not friends or even people, they're just exploited as plot devices. And even that is being generous, because there is NO plot.
Oh, and if the imagined depth of her musings isn't bad enough, she quotes ancients and prolific authors like a name-dropping socialite. I mean, it's good practice to emphasize something every now and then, but every page it's Aristotle this and Virginia Woolf that. ENOUGH.
Every now and then she would break out with something that impressed me about her views (i.e. she doesn't believe in anti-depressants), but the next page she would be on a ridiculous train of thought that made me want to smack her.
I might still give the movie a try, since Julia Roberts is infinitely lovable and the trailers imply some actual travel happens (*gasp*), but I just couldn't get through one more page of this self-centered, self-inflated jibber jabber. As I said, surprised and disappointed.(less)
Another book I've been meaning to read forever, ever since I saw the movie (which was very good). Well, the movie followed the book pretty closely, an...moreAnother book I've been meaning to read forever, ever since I saw the movie (which was very good). Well, the movie followed the book pretty closely, and it seems like Krakauer did a lot of very good research to piece together McCandless's journey without editorializing or inventing too much, if anything. I found the story of "Alexander Supertramp" to be thought-provoking, sad, and also kind of beautiful. I would have loved to know more. Obviously Krakauer could only discover so much about McCandless's movements and thoughts, and he did a great job. Still, he too seemed to want to add to the story, and he did so by adding a long chapter about his own experiences trying to climb the north face of Devils Thumb. I sort of understand the point he was trying to make, but honestly I felt like he was interrupting McCandless's story to talk about himself, and I just didn't like that. Otherwise, very good.(less)