Sunday, November 11, 2007

BOOK: "Honorable Bandit: A Walk Across Corsica" by Brian Bouldrey (University of Wisconsin Terrace Books, $26.95)

TARGET AUDIENCE: Pilgrims on the virtual trail.

Picking up a book about someone's wilderness hike is a little like getting into a car with a stranger. You're his captive, and you cross your fingers, hoping that when he unloads all those thoughts he has accumulated, you won't regret your decision.

Fortunately, there's no need to yell, "Stop this book and let me out now!" at Bouldrey. His hike with his German friend Petra through the rugged Corsican hills and spiny scrub (maquis) becomes a vehicle for the history of the Mediterranean island (land of the vendetta), observations on the inadequacy of words (a concept he betrays by being more than adept with them) and reflections on the early years of the AIDS epidemic, which claimed his partner, Jeff. Unlike many authors of personal travel narratives, he never crosses into gag-inducing self-indulgence, opting instead for clever self-effacement and delicate poignancy. No, we won't demand to get out of his car. We might even buy him lunch.

-- Jerry V. Haines

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