Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review: Better Than Fiction edited by Don George

There are lots of places on the planet that I'd love to visit. I most likely won't make to many, if not most, of them. There's just not the time or the money to see all I'd like to see. And that's where books come in. I've traveled all over the world between the pages of a book and if it's just a vicarious experience, it's been a delight anyway. Don George has collected true travel stories from many of today's highly acclaimed fiction writers in his collection, Better Than Fiction, a collection that allows readers to travel widely through the pens and eyes of their favorite current writers.

As is almost always the case, some of the stories were stronger than others and some of them were of more interest to me as a reader than others. The notion of travel and the destinations were wildly varying as well. Written by fiction writers rather than travel writers, it was surprising to see that some of the offerings were quite weak in narrative structure, coming across as meandering anecdotes with no clear story to them. Some of the stories were very personal, such as Isabel Allende's tale of visiting India and finding the inspiration to celebrate the memory of her daughter by creating a much needed charitable organization. Some of the stories told of traveling into not a different country but a different state of being, such as Joyce Carol Oates' story of a tour through San Quentin. Many of the stories, though, did capture the writers' journeys into cultures not their own and the adventures they stumbled on or, in some cases, caused to happen to them in these foreign places. Because the stories are relatively short, readers can dip into the book when they only have a brief amount of reading time  There's no reason to read the tales in order either.  It is most assuredly a sampler.

While it was interesting to be introduced to the different writers' voices in these brief snapshots, I'm not certain I've added to my list of places to see before I die nor was I inspired to search out the fiction of anyone I hadn't already read, which was a disappointment but perhaps not wholly fair either since non-fiction travel tales are not the general m├ętier of the selected authors. In general, it was a pleasant and occasionally diverting read but not quite all I expected.

1 comment:

  1. Roughly how many of the authors were familiar to you already?


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