Patrick McCoy's Reviews > Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer

Smile When You're Lying by Chuck Thompson
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's review
Sep 21, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: travel

Chuck Thompson’s Smile While You’re Lying is a very entertaining book. It is a little hard to categorize since it functions as a travel book, memoir, and take down of the travel writing industry. That being said, Thompson has a sharp wit and a gift for inventive similes and entertaining anecdotes. His books are also of special interest to me since he was a JET (Japanese Exchange Teaching) Program in 1987 (I was also a participant on JET 10 years alter in 1997). He lived in the Japanese Alps in Gifu, and later taught at Mt. Hood University in Okayama. So he has some interesting and accurate things to say about Japan. Here’s an example: “Teaching English to the Japanese is like making panda babies-an extremely delicate procedure requiring repeated attempts and resulting in constant disappointment.”

He also discusses what he thinks is wrong with travel writing, rehashes his experience of a failed travel magazine, and shares some of his observations about travel and the travel industry. He likes the Philippines, Queens NY, and Caracas dislikes Florida (except for some of the Keys islands), The Caribbean, and Baltimore’s harbor. In addition, he enjoys traveling in South and Central America, but he knows it will never catch on with mainstream travelers in America because of perceived dangers: “ Latin America shares little of the stifling obsession with ticky-tack regulations that’s turned America into the most pussyfooted nation on earth, after Japan.” Here’s another of his pointed observations: “New Zealand: Nice people, nice mountains, but unless you live in Australia, save yourself time and trouble and visit British Columbia instead.” It was an entertaining and quick read-highly recommended for anyone who likes to travel.

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