Road Reads

Sunday, September 2, 2007

BOOK: "Wish You Weren't Here," Cecil Kuhne, ed. (Black Cat, $13)

TARGET AUDIENCE: The insomniac in the middle seat on a red-eye.

If there's a theme linking these 21 excerpts, it's probably that "Hell is other people," particularly fellow tourists, and there's not much you can do about it, so laugh. Travel reminiscences include Mark Twain's ("We all like to see people seasick when we are not, ourselves") and Tony Horwitz's (let him explain why he was wearing five pairs of jockey shorts -- on his head).

There's repeated harrumphing about hippies, vegans and organic food, while Bill Bryson provides the obligatory Francophobic shots. But P.J. O'Rourke fondly recounts a cow manure-perfumed trip along India's Grand Trunk, and Sarah Vowell describes her unfortunate compulsions to regale strangers with tales of presidential assassinations. A mellow E.B. White digs out an early journal of a voyage as a "saloonsman" on an Alaska-bound steamer. If these were the "other people," Hell might be fun.

-- Jerry V. Haines

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