cover image The World Is a Book, Indeed: Writing, Reading, and Traveling

The World Is a Book, Indeed: Writing, Reading, and Traveling

Peter LaSalle. LSU, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8071-7396-1

LaSalle (Sleeping Mask) delivers a wonderful collection of essays about his extensive travels, to places both literary and actual, over his career as a fiction writer and writing instructor. Though LaSalle’s prose is consistently elegant and thoughtful (“Aren’t we all travelers in our dreams, wandering alone and solitary, constantly being drawn to a place where we should be... a voice often urging us on?” ), one particularly strong piece is his essay on writer Bao Ninh, known for writing an autobiographical 1991 novel, The Sorrow of War, about serving in the North Vietnamese People’s Army. Other highlights include a wonderfully detailed selection about São Paulo that ends up a bittersweet elegy for a former colleague, and recollections of taking a deep dive during the late 1970s into the Cameroonian literature and arts scene. To supplement this last piece, LaSalle provides an assortment of his reviews of books set in Africa, among them J.M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, which “cuts to the bone in its universality” to societies beyond the author’s own South Africa, and V.S. Naipaul’s A Bend in the River, which is “artistically deft” but overly pessimistic in its look at the continent’s “many problems and looming woes.” Readers who discover this literary gem will be delighted. (Oct.)