No surprise that Elizabeth Gilbert and I don't really have overlapping styles - I preferred Vollman's choices last year, but my favorite so far were B...moreNo surprise that Elizabeth Gilbert and I don't really have overlapping styles - I preferred Vollman's choices last year, but my favorite so far were Bourdain's - but she did pick a few really good ones. David Sedaris is awesome, as always, as is Ian Frazier. The names I didn't know that I'll be following now are David Farley, for his story on a mysterious bowl of noodles in Vietnam, Colleen Kinder, for her story on walking through Cairo in a niqab, and Sam Anderson for his story about a failed Dickens amusement park.
Overall, a solid addition to this series, but nowhere near my favorite. I'd say my least favorites were "Confessions of a Packing Maximalist" and "The Bull Passes Through." (less)
I will hopefully not sound like too much of a douchebag by saying, "Less science! More fiction!" to the undisputed father of the genre. I don't mean t...moreI will hopefully not sound like too much of a douchebag by saying, "Less science! More fiction!" to the undisputed father of the genre. I don't mean to knock it, because it's a classic for a reason, but the constant lists of sea creatures got on my nerves a little bit, to the point where I was hoping for more information on the enigmatic Captain Nemo. I know that the Mysterious Island delves a little bit deeper into his identity, but there was a fair amount of loose ends regarding his character which I found really frustrating at the end of the book. I get that he hates imperialism! I want more of it!
Take on top of that the rather hasty ending WHICH ISN'T EVEN DESCRIBED and you've got an otherwise 5-star book down to three stars. I can see it's value, I'll have my kids read it when they express an interest in sci-fi. But I found myself wanting more. Which I suppose is still a compliment.(less)
Overall, a very good collection. I'm surprised, actually, because I'm ranking this as highly as I ranked the 2008 edition, which I also just read and...moreOverall, a very good collection. I'm surprised, actually, because I'm ranking this as highly as I ranked the 2008 edition, which I also just read and was edited by a favorite of mine, Anthony Bourdain. Vollman doesn't have QUITE the same taste as me, and there are a few in here I was not a fan of - I'm not much into Thomas Swick in this or in any of the other editions, and Aaron Dactyl's piece struck me as a bit misanthropic - but a few of them were absolutely incredible. Specifically: -J. Malcolm Garcia's piece on Northern Ireland -Paul Theroux's bit on Maine -Peter Gwin's bit on Timbuktu -Kenan Trebincevic's bit on going back home to the Balkans.
I've seen a number of complaints on Goodreads that the stories aren't generally speaking "travel writing," but are more pieces with a strong emphasis on the location of the piece, but I don't understand how this is a bad thing. Providing a historical or journalistic context for a location always makes traveling to it much more rewarding for me. And travelogues are often superficial and boring. Overall, a worthy addition to the series.(less)
Pretty decent collection of travel writing. I picked this mostly because of Bourdain, and I know he doesn't have much patience for flowery bullshit. T...morePretty decent collection of travel writing. I picked this mostly because of Bourdain, and I know he doesn't have much patience for flowery bullshit. The best selections were Peter Gwin's piece (his piece in the 2012 edition was one of the best as well), David Sedaris' piece (obviously), and Seth Stevenson's piece (funny travel writing at its best). There weren't any I particularly disliked, though I'm not a fan of Thomas Swick's stuff, either in this volume or the 2012 volume.(less)
I don't actually remember when I read this, so the date is a guess, but it was the precursor for On the Road, Into the Wild, and all of the other book...moreI don't actually remember when I read this, so the date is a guess, but it was the precursor for On the Road, Into the Wild, and all of the other books that instilled an early wanderlust in me.(less)
This was actually one of my favorite Dark Tower books. Not so much because of the story (which I could barely contextualize since it's been so long si...moreThis was actually one of my favorite Dark Tower books. Not so much because of the story (which I could barely contextualize since it's been so long since I've read the first three books) or the story within the story (I just don't care much about Roland. King's heroes are rarely as interesting as his villains), but the story within the story within the story was a great fairy tale. Really awesome stuff. And I appreciated the appearance by Flagg.
Give it a read, but don't expect a continuation of Roland's story. There's barely more context added, and his parts are more the provide the setting of the fairy tale he's telling.(less)
I feel like this was a good idea that was told to some publishing exec who thought they could make some quick money on it so pushed it through before...moreI feel like this was a good idea that was told to some publishing exec who thought they could make some quick money on it so pushed it through before it could be done in any real quality.
Because come on, who doesn't want to read about Fitzgerald's thoughts on booze?
It doesn't HAVE much booze in it though. Sure, it's mentioned in all of the stories, but with the exception of the clippings at the beginning, it's just tangential, and all of the writings seem to be from his much later career - specifically in 1934. So I guess that, while I liked the clips in this book, I felt somewhat cheated by the cover.(less)
I needed a good giggle. I didn't expect it to be any more than what it is, and it gets a bit tedious when he's running through the states, but otherwi...moreI needed a good giggle. I didn't expect it to be any more than what it is, and it gets a bit tedious when he's running through the states, but otherwise, quick and pleasant, a good palate cleanser after some dark-ass cyberpunk craziness.(less)
There are times I read Hitchens and I'm blown away by his writing abilities, and then there are other times I think he's just trying to flex nuts... t...moreThere are times I read Hitchens and I'm blown away by his writing abilities, and then there are other times I think he's just trying to flex nuts... there were a good handful of those in his memoirs, hence the 3 stars. That said, the man is incredibly eloquent, and staggeringly well read.
A note: As an atheist, I would consider myself something of a Hitchens admirer, but I've had trouble reconciling his leftism with his support for the war in Iraq, and I have a few quick thoughts on that. Though the man seems to be mildly insecure and also a bit of a bully, I think he has some incredible integrity when it comes to issues of antitotalitarianism. This is at the root of his atheism (or anti-theism, as he calls it), and it is the common strand in most of his political stances. He was fair enough to condemn Stalinism rather than playing a game of coy apologetics with others on the left, and he has the balls to side with the U.S. when they do something right. That said, my sense was that Hitchens wasn't so much a neocon as he was an internationalist and, as a result, an interventionist. He admits in the book to being appalled by the incompetence of the Bush administration in Iraq, as well as ashamed of the looting of the Baghdad Museum, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, and the absurd and sadistic Cheney policy around torture.
My point is: being for anti-fascist intervention shouldn't be looked down upon on the left. Is Iraq now better off than it was under Saddam? Who knows? It wasn't done properly, and that might lead to backsliding. But - and this is coming from a guy who decided he was left-wing at 16 when the Iraq Invasion first happened - I think his position in itself is admirable. His defense of the aftermath I chalk up to a mix of stubbornness and a realization that no war goes smoothly. At the end of the day, those of us on the left shouldn't disown Hitchens as one of ours. We shouldn't be a peacenik movement that doesn't stand up for right and wrong in the name of pacifism. While I don't totally agree with him on this and a lot of other things, the man deserves credit. His only serious blindness, as far as I can see, is in believing religion is the ROOT of the problem. It's an aspect, and this blindness might've pushed him to take some otherwise disturbing views.
Also, I loved hearing that he either read or hung out with my other two literary heroes: Vonnegut and Hunter Thompson. Rock on, Hitch.(less)
Hitchens is, as usual, all sorts of awesome. This is a great book mostly because it gives you a glimpse into Hitchens just before he became known as a...moreHitchens is, as usual, all sorts of awesome. This is a great book mostly because it gives you a glimpse into Hitchens just before he became known as a "neocon" for his support of the invasion of Iraq, and before he was known less as a journalist and more as an atheist.
In the essays in this book, you can see what drives the man, what makes him who he is, and why he is such a massive intellectual force. Neocon is a massive misnomer for a man who is fairly radical in his humanism and anti-theism. At his core, Hitchens proves himself to be a product of his generation, the English generation born just after the end of WWII. At his core, Hitchens is simply an anti-fascist. This anti-fascism made him a figurehead of the left in his earlier years, and this same impulse made him defend Salman Rushdie and his ilk (Theo van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali), and, later, support the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein, as well as supporting the fight against religious extremism. Neocon my ass. Hitchens is the intellectual the west needs, not the one it deserves.
The essays themselves are for the most part classic Hitchens. The weakest section was the "Love," section, which is less due to any lack of skill on Hitchens part, and more due to the fact that it gets pretty boring to listen to someone rave about that which he loves (unless you happen to love the same things). Not that I dislike Graham Greene or Marcel Proust, I'm just not quite as ardent an admire as he is. Hitchens is at his best when he's a cultural and political commentator - see his polemics against the great religious figures or his writing on the Post-9/11 world - and is impossible not to enjoy reading.
If only I were more literary, then I could've given this five stars. Rock on, Hitch. (less)