BOOK: "Molvania -- A Land Untouched by Modern Dentistry," by Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Rob Sitch (Overlook Press, $13.95)
TARGET AUDIENCE: People with more guidebooks than Grishams in their libraries.
QUICK TAKE: This guide to the imaginary Eastern European country of Molvania looks like the real thing. And as a send-up of travel guides it's pretty funny. The authors really nail the format: the boldface type pulling "pornographic lithograph" or "Balkan Inquisition" out of a numbing narrative, the suggested itinerary (Day 5 is "Good opportunity to get your washing done"), the carping of the well-traveled commentator to whom everything was better before it got "discovered." A cultural insight notes that the national anthem is sung to the tune of "What a Feeling" from "Flashdance."
The descriptions of Molvania's dilapidated national treasures, ghastly "luxury" hotels and horse meat-centered cuisine do tweak the style of Lonely Planet, Cadogan, et al. But sometimes the resulting laughter is uneasy, like a reaction to a drunken uncle telling ethnic jokes. Those Molvanians: Their language is so . . . not English; their country is so . . . poor. What a hoot.
RANT: The line between what's funny and what's just mean is often breached. The country may be imaginary, but the condescension and xenophobia are real.
RAVE: After you read this book, real guidebooks will cause you to chuckle.
-- Jerry V. Haines