Lori's Book Nook

Travel Writing

Posted on: January 6, 2007

If there’s one genre that we all feel we have a claim to, it’s travel writing. C’mon! Don’t you feel that you too could be a travel writer? It’s not that hard, is it?

Anyone can throw a 50-word review on an online travel community — I do it myself quite regularly at my new obsession, Gusto!. (If you’re so inclined, check out my profile.) But seriously — name a travel writer, who’s not one of these two big guns:
Bill Bryson

Paul Theroux

Today I want to introduce you to the man everyone should read (and aspire to write as well as), Pico Iyer.  Prolific, insightful, man-of-the-world — you get 200,000+ Google hits on the man. (Go ahead, explore. He’s been interviewed a lot, he’s written a lot, and he’s had lots written about him. And, he speaks well — went to a reading and Q&A with him once.)

I will give you a sample, and you can decide for yourself.

Years ago, my mom and I traveled to Vietnam, and stayed for a week in Hanoi, in the old part of the city. Gorgeous place, but I can’t describe it anywhere near as well as Iyer in this excerpt:

“And nighttime was the best of all in the old, and stately capital, as something ancient began to come forth from the shadows. I loved to bump along the lamplit alleyways after dark in a cyclo, a perfect pace at which to see and smell the spicy nights. In the gloom, the town was more mysterious than ever, the streets too dark even to read by, the little stalls half lit, the faces eerie in blackness. Lovers were eating ice cream by the waterside, and children traded cards of movie stars. Whole families sat at tables on the sidewalk, eating elaborate meals by the flicker of oil lamps. Couples sat cradled by their bicycles, or in the hollows of large trees. The air smelled of mint and a festival spirit. And it was easy to feel the lamps were burning inside the people too.”

[from the essay “Yesterday Once More” in the collection Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World (1993)]

Go check him out. You won’t regret it.

2 Responses to "Travel Writing"

There’s a quite good –and quite lengthy– Q&A with Ayer on WorldHum, published in late November. Worth a read – http://www.worldhum.com/qanda/item/pico_iyer_travel_writing_20061104/


[long pause]

Oh, it is a good interview…very broad, with nicely deep moments. The interviewer asks some well developed questions. Obviously read Iyer’s work!

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