Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Travelers Guide to Being 22 Years Old, and other states

The Words Without Borders blog has a post on a series of books published by Whereabouts Press, the Traveler Literary Companion series. These are guides to countries (mostly) and some cities containing stories set in those places. To their credit, an examination of the Table of Contents for some of the books suggests that their contents were all written by natives to those countries; the India guide has no E.M. Forester or even V.S. Naipaul, the Spain no Hemingway or Orwell.

A splendid idea. But what if the definition of travel guide were extended to states of being, or stages of life? Thus a Travelers Guide to Being 22 Years Old might contain selections from Goodbye, Columbus, The Graduate, and All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers. The Travelers Guide to Homelessness would contain stories written only by people who had been (and maybe were still) homeless (voluntary homeless people need not apply -- again, no Orwell). The emphasis on authenticity might get a little dicey with, for example, The Travelers Guide to Mars -- but who could exclude Ray Bradbury from that collection?

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