Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Wonder Trail

Title:  The Wonder Trail: True Stories from Los Angeles to the End of the World
Author:  Steve Hely
Publication Information:  Dutton. 2016. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0525955011 / 978-0525955016

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "There were stories like this way before there were books."

Favorite Quote:  "There's no need to make up experiences. Why do that extra work of imagining? If you just go out into the world far enough, you'll find plenty that's crazy and worth putting down."

"Part travel book, part pop history, part comic memoir..." So reads the marketing material for this book. For me unfortunately, it fails to deliver in any of these directions.

Let's take travel. This book documents a journey the author took from "Los Angeles to the end of the world." The end of the world, in this case, is the tip of South America. If you follow the geography, this route leads through beautiful landscapes, world-known landmarks, and vibrant cultures. Unfortunately, having read the book, I don't have a sense of any of it - the places or the people. The aspects of the descriptions that stand out are the repeated anecdotes of drinking and girls, two things I really have no need to hear about. I have no sense of the wonder some of these places might inspire; the travel component of the book lacks substance.

Let's take history - even pop history. Periodically, amongst the travel, short chapters pick and describe a point of history. The descriptions do not flow with the story but rather seem dropped in. Also, I don't know how accurate the history even is. Towards the beginning of the book, the author makes a claim, "I won't make anything up, though. Everything I put in this book is true. I saw it or heard it or experienced it myself, or else it's something I learned that I looked into and I believe to be true." Yet, the book contradicts that outright. Not everything is true. For example, the book begins with a quote attributed to Ponce de León, but if you read to the end of the book, the author's note points out the quote is fabricated. It "just seems like a good quote the world could use." What?

Let's take comic. Perhaps I am not the target audience for this type of comedy. The prolific use of curse words is not funny to me. Referring to fellow authors as "an obvious baller of a woman" or "a b***ch" is not funny to me. The other, more nebulous feeling I am left with is in the tone of the book. It seems not to be funny as in fun, but seems to poke sarcastically at pretty much everything in its path - history, landmarks, people, and culture. To me, this is not funny; in fact, it borders on disrespectful.

Let's take memoir. The author begins the book by acknowledging the genre of travel memoirs. "Lately, women have been dominating the filed, perhaps because they've realized the emotional journey is more important than the physical one." This book, however, is not about an emotional journey; it is more an extended vacation. The author had the time, went on this trip, and then went home. As an individual journey, the book does not leave me knowing or understanding the author any better than I did at the beginning, other than the facts that he likes to party and that his lifestyle affords the luxury of a trip such as this one.

Clearly, I am not the right reader for this book. I love the idea of a "wonder trail" but unfortunately, this version is not the armchair trip for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment