A lavish and often revelatory assortment of travel writings.
Adventure off the beaten track is the guiding theme of this latest collection in the long-running series, and most of the contributors deliver it on a level that will gratify both armchair travelers and the most seasoned and fearless thrill-seekers. These writers provide dispatches from all corners of the globe—from South Sudan to Paris to Brazil to Calcutta to the Adirondacks—and in most cases, they deliver refreshingly original stories, alternately humorous, nostalgic, exhilarating and horrifying. On the whole, the quality of the writing is high, with only two or three descents into bombastic machismo. Elif Batuman pursues a mysterious local kidney disorder in Croatia; Stephanie Pearson explores the lesser-known areas of Colombia; Amanda Lindhout describes her "460 Days" as a prisoner of Somali insurgents; Michael Paterniti explores an extraordinary type of cheese in an adaptation from his outstanding memoir, The Telling Room (2013); and Matthew Power, who died tragically this year, plunges into the world of “urbex,” the exploration of secret places in some of the most-visited cities of the world. Not all the essays will be to everyone's taste, but in most cases, this is a matter of personal preference, not quality. One low point is Harrison Scott Key's strained comedy on traveling by Greyhound, in which he finds only the caricatures he went looking for. Some pieces provide contemplative breaks in the action, including Thomas Swick’s “A Moving Experience,” which considers how unexciting travel can be. In the foreword, series editor Jason Wilson provides another fine essay about rediscovering his first great wine experience, and second-time editor Theroux introduces the book with thoughts on his own career of risky explorations and the pleasures of reading about the most challenging "adventures and ordeals—the traveler's baptism of fire." Other contributors include A.A. Gill, David Sedaris and Colson Whitehead.
A thrilling, surprising collection—one of the best in the series.