An offbeat work that will likely provide inspiration to travel again in the future.

WHY TRAVEL?

A WAY OF BEING, A WAY OF SEEING

A nonfiction book on how, where, and why to visit places around the world.

Thompson, the author of Art and Craft: Thirty Years on the Literary Beat (2015),has written a somewhat unique travel book based on his previously published travel articles in Charleston, South Carolina’s Post and Courier. Each chapter includes an introductory essay on an aspect of travel followed by examples of places to go that relate to that topic. Along the way, the author offers challenges to conventional travel wisdom. For example, although the book is international in scope, it includes plenty of encouragement for Americans to travel in the United States. Indeed, an early chapter is about how Americans should see North America first, before venturing outside the continent—although it also emphasizes that this includes Canada, as well as the U.S., and provides an account of what to see in Quebec City. (He also includes Mexico in this section, as well.) Not everything has to be “off the beaten path”to be meaningful, writes Thompson, as plenty of intriguing things can be found in the familiar. That said, he also does justice to the well-known and lesser-known wonders of Europe and beyond, tackling the new vibrancy of modern Spain and Athens, Greece, beyond the Parthenon. There are also chapters that focus on the joys of train and automobile travel while also acknowledging the challenges of both—such as the fact that a car’s driver may find it difficult to enjoy road-trip scenery. And in a book that admittedly focuses on travel for solo adventurers and couples, he promotes the idea that family travel can also be adventurous and meaningful. There are a few flaws, though; for one, the author is somewhat inconsistent in providing travel tips in each chapter—some offer specific information on lodgings, for example, while others don’t. Also, there’s only a passing reference to the tragic history of Jewish people in the Prague area, which may strike some readers as insensitive.

An offbeat work that will likely provide inspiration to travel again in the future.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73612-640-0

Page Count: 194

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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