The Best American Travel Writing 2012

Edited by William T. Vollmann. Mariner, $14.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-547-80897-0
The contributors to the latest entry in this series give readers a good sense of place—they fold you into the setting. Vollmann (Europe Central) has gathered—from National Geographic, the New Yorker, and elsewhere—a deft mix of high and low, far and wide. "Letter from Paris," for example, from Michael Gorra, sits alongside "Garbage City" by Iraq veteran-turned-journalist Elliott D. Woods. The former evokes wonder: "The Eiffel Tower is always there… and on some nights it seems to go off like a sparkler, its lights popping red and gold as if it were shorting itself out." The latter hones in on Izbet Az-Zabaleen, "a hive of entrepreneurial recyclers… nestled at the edge of Manshiet Nasser, a teeming slum on Cairo's eastern outskirts." Monte Reel's "How to Explore Like a Real Victorian Adventurer," an ironic anthropological guide to a shopping mall in suburban Illinois, shares book-space with Luke Dittrich's "Walking the Border," about borderlands between the United States and Mexico. Not every selection here will work for every reader. Aaron Dacytl's "Railroad Semantics," for example, about life on the rails in the Pacific Northwest, eventually goes off track. But it's a rare disappointment in this volume of mostly enlightening essays. (Oct. 2)
Reviewed on: 10/29/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
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