Tuesday, January 27, 2004

"Get out of here."

In the middle of winter it's nice to go somewhere warm. But if you can't, then a good travel novel ain't half bad. And it's a lot cheaper, without the fleas or giardia.

And for those of you who've already had kids, are in deep mid-career, or otherwise settled down there's little chance you'll take six months off to backpack the Southern Cone, or will ever be found fucking a stranger at one of those all-night beach raves in Thailand, walking through the Forum tripping, or walking around the canals of Amsterdam so stoned that you forgot exactly where your hotel was. But if you wanna remember what it's like to do any of this, or learn more about taking Ex at Burning Man, then I suggest you read Geoff Dyer’s Yoga for People Who Can’t be Bothered to Do It. It's one of the most entertaining travel books I’ve read since The Songlines. And bound to be a hippie backpacker classic.

Another in the travel novel genre is Michel Houellebecq's Platform. This is a great post-9/11 novel that's about the clash of civilizations without being a grand historical novel (pre-9/11, I suppose the best would be The Sheltering Sky or some other book by Bowles). The protagonist is a French sex tourist who goes to Thailand to get what he wants and finds more -- falls in love with a woman who works for the company that organized his tour. He convinces her and a colleague to try openly marketing sex tours to the Third World, selling them on his theory that Westerners have lost touch with their own sexuality and that therefore the idea would take off as a popular form of therapy.

Finally, for armchair browsing about what it would be like to go to a war zone and other parts of the dark side, try The World's Most Dangerous Places. If he was any more of a mercenary rather than an adverturist, I'd imagine this guy advertising in the back of Soldier of Fortune and titling his next book The Conquest is Cool, but luckily he's not over-the-top in that kind of Ugly American kind of way and if he's been to half the hellish (5 star) places he writes about here then I guess he's in his rights to be dishing out survival tips.