THE SOPHISTICATED TRAVELER: Great Tours and Detours by A.M. & Arthur Gelb--Eds. Rosenthal


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Vivid personal impressions of faraway places uneasily blended with banal tips on hotels, restaurants, and sightseeing in an otherwise agreeable anthology. New York Times biggies Rosenthal and Gelb have assembled a host of veteran writers, some eminent (Anthony Burgess, Alberto Moravia, Muriel Spark, Elie Wiesel) and all solidly professional (Nick Gage, Jan Morris, William Weaver, Francis Steegmuller, et al.), who reminisce or rhapsodize about the regions (Tuscany, Brittany, Wales) or cities (Milan, Bergen, Jerusalem, Vienna) they especially love. Except for the final section, ""Worldly Pleasures,"" which deals with such mundane items as finding the best French cheeses, buying a custom-made shirt from Turnbull and Asser's in London, and epicurean dining in Kyoto, the 45-odd pieces collected here breathe an infectious, untouristy passion for parts of the world the authors know firsthand. A.L. Rowse strolls through the Oxford he has spent much of his life in, Nick Gage returns to Epirus where he was born (briefly alluding to the events recounted in Eleni). Malachi Martin rattles on expertly, if a bit unctuously, about Christian Jerusalem. Alberto Moravia looks at Zaire through Joseph Conrad's jaundiced eyes and has a mauvais quart d'heure with a surly police chief in Kisangani. Rosenthal and Bernard Kalb record their intoxication with, respectively, India and Indonesia. It's mostly splendid stuff. But do we really need the lists of addresses, phone numbers, prices, and such (typically worked up by the New York Times travel staff) that follow the various articles? Some emulous readers may want this stuff, but the best parts of the book, like Steegmuller's ""Flaubert's Europe,"" describe journeys and experiences that are utterly unrepeatable. Pleasant fare for armchair travelers.

Pub Date: May 31st, 1985
Publisher: Villard/Random House