As a professional travel writer with a specialty in ethical travel and as a left-wing progressive, this book was a pretty unfulfilling read. I don't wAs a professional travel writer with a specialty in ethical travel and as a left-wing progressive, this book was a pretty unfulfilling read. I don't want to crap on it too hard because I wasn't the target audience, but there were a few too many things to dislike for me to give it any higher than a two-star rating. I'll provide some detail:
Steves is at his best when he's taken lessons he's learned in foreign countries and bringing them back to the United States. The place he's most effective is regarding drug legalization (which is clearly his wheelhouse), and, to a lesser extent, regarding Denmark's approach to democratic socialism. He mentions at the conclusion of the book that he's also politically active in the affordable housing cause and in the fight to relieve third-world debt. Why these issues received no attention in the body of the book is beyond me, especially considering how easily the debt issue could've been integrated into an otherwise tepid section on El Salvador. The affordable housing lessons he says he learned in Cairo would've been fascinating to translate to an American context.
The rest of the book reads like a history lesson written in the form of a travel brochure by someone who is probably not entirely qualified to write it. His bit on El Salvador (which I'm personally familiar with) was a let-down. He discusses going into the rich parts of town, and smugly proclaims he's seen more of their city than they have. It's fair to condemn El Salvador's rich for walling themselves off from their crumbling country, but any sense of superiority is ill-founded: our country played a pretty huge role into making their country what it is.
His chapter on Israel and Palestine is equally frustrating: he does an excellent job at articulating why Israelis think the way they do about the conflict, but he barely scratches the surface of the Palestinian viewpoint. At the end, he proclaims his solution -- nonviolence. I mean, thanks, Rick. We appreciate you getting us there. Instead of offering diagnostics (which he probably recognizes he's underqualified for), he could have used the opportunity to question America's unwavering support of Israel, he could have pointed out how we may have undermined the peace at times by applying double standards to Palestinians and Israelis, and possibly have provided some lessons for Americans to bring back home.
A large part of the problem has to do with his writing style. Steves is a television writer, and also an unapologetic dad. His writing is corny, and this translates well to public TV and guidebooks, but not to serious political books. He has a Paris Hilton and Britney Spears joke in there, for Christ's sake. This was first published in 2014. It also reads like a travelogue, with frequent discursions into food, sights, and sounds, written in a travel brochure language that I personally don't allow the writers I edit to use. He completely overuses ...'s. They seem to serve as an alternative punctuation. I understand writing with ...'s for TV. I can hear it. But it's not how print should be written.
It's a shame, because it's a missed opportunity. The idea was a worthwhile one. Go to new countries, discuss politics with the locals, use those interactions to inform your political views back home and to open up your mind a bit. It's hampered because his eyes are bigger than his stomach and he tackles things he shouldn't.
He's not totally unsuccessful, though. His target audience is clearly less-traveled, middle-aged, conservative-to-moderate Americans. It's written for people with a provincial American mindset. This would explain why he so frequently qualifies his points with, "Now, I'm not saying violence is ever justified..." and other things along those lines that make him come across as a bit wishy-washy when it might be more courageous to take an actual stand (though it's worth noting that, on the things he's well-informed about, like drug legalization, he DOES take a strong stand, even though it's in the daddest way possible).
Overall, the book probably serves its audiences, but for more experienced travelers, and for those who already actively travel with a political intent, it's probably going to be too shallow to be satisfying.
Also, can we get a moratorium on putting that fucking Mark Twain "travel is fatal to bigotry..." blah blah blah quote into print?...more
Thank god (cough) Hitchens wrote this prior to 9/11, when he suddenly turned neocon and started supporting the same type of war he'd fought so hard agThank god (cough) Hitchens wrote this prior to 9/11, when he suddenly turned neocon and started supporting the same type of war he'd fought so hard against in the 60's and 70's. His writing is (as always) wonderful, and his ability to use the exact right word in every situation is incredible. And thank goodness I'm reading it now on a Kindle when I can automatically look up the words I don't know....more
A really incredible book. I'm not sure I agree with the premise that the 19th century was necessarily simple to understand -- I suspect this is more tA really incredible book. I'm not sure I agree with the premise that the 19th century was necessarily simple to understand -- I suspect this is more the case for Brits, as the 19th century was pretty much their century, and thus must seem like a much simpler time in retrospect -- nor am I totally convinced by his conclusions about the millennial generation (my generation), which strike me as maybe a bit optimistic (he mentioned having a kid who's a millennial in the beginning, so that might explain that), but none of that matters. Everything in between is fantastic. His explanation of relativity actually makes sense, and his run throughs of nihilism, sci-fi, modernism, individualism, capitalism, and everything else are entertaining at worst, and deeply insightful at best.
What's probably most important is that he manages to tie all of these diverse concepts together without straining too hard, and manages to show a general pattern in the ideas of the 20th century. It's also kind of perfect for Alan Moore fanboys like myself, with all of its talk about the fringes of society, Aleister Crowley, comics, and concepts like Solve et Coagula.
Is it perfect? No. Is it the most rewarding book I've read in a long while? God, yes....more
The writing is a lot better than you'd expect from a former NFL player, but it's still a little rough around the edges. It's funny, too, but sometimesThe writing is a lot better than you'd expect from a former NFL player, but it's still a little rough around the edges. It's funny, too, but sometimes it tries to hard.
What I liked the most was the actual content... the NFL is a meat grinder, and this view from the inside makes it seem much grittier (and much more interesting) than the idiotic tripe that's put out by ESPN and most other sports journalism. That it has taken us (the public) until now to realize what football does to the bodies of its players is surprising considering how it's taken as such a natural matter of course in this book. He's got a way of telling the story without it feeling like a tell-all or like he has any sort of agenda, but it's still an incredibly interesting look at the football industry....more