An eclectic but not particularly strong collection of pieces involving travel around the globe and around the yard.
Independent columnist Crosley (How Did You Get This Number, 2010, etc.) presents a wide variety of pieces, including André Aciman’s search for Monet sites in Bordighera, Christopher Buckley’s brief account of a year on a tramp freighter, Keith Gessen’s grousings about Moscow traffic and Emily Witt’s sophomoric snippets about her drinking and partying in Miami. At times, Crosley seems bent on juxtaposing pieces to see what light may emerge from the collision, say, between Téa Obreht’s peregrinations in the Balkans hearing vampire stories and Annie Proulx’s quiet walks around her Wyoming ranch observing the wildlife. At other times, the editor places shorter pieces (Gary Shteyngart’s cryptic ruminations about Russians in Israel) before longer ones (William T. Vollmann’s six visits to Kirkuk to learn about the Kurds and the explosive politics in the region). There are essays by writers who went to geographical extremes (Justin Nobel to Arctic Quebec, Verlyn Klinkenborg to a remote area of Australia, Maureen Dowd to Saudi Arabia) and those who stuck closer to home (Ariel Levy to the Hamptons for an enlightening piece about Indian casinos, Jessica McCaughey on a local hike where she tried to cure her inept internal GPS). Some pieces have moments that are downright harrowing: Mischa Berlinski’s views of earthquake devastation in Haiti, Tom Ireland’s time in Mumbai while terrorists were killing people.
Although these writers invariably have something novel to say, there aren’t a lot of moments that will make armchair travelers race out to renew their passports.