THE A5 BOOK REVIEW
No website on travel writing would be complete without including Smile When You're Lying, a book from Chuck Thompson exposing phoniness and failures in the genre. His acidic rant against the superlatives of hyperbole and political correctness has some merit, and there is no question that his selection of stories is as authentic as any. Real travel stories are likely more often the ones he describes; getting ripped off by four Catholic girl types in Thailand, an isolated and ineffective cultural exchange program in Japan, and a miserable tour with a band through Eastern Europe, And his advice to travelers is great... lie a little, hang up quickly on moronic reservation agents but be especially nice to customer service representatives when needed, avoid spicy food outside the US, accept that sometimes you need to pay through the nose to enjoy your trip, and most importantly, tip your hotel maid early and generously.
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ABOUT CHUCK THOMPSON
Chuck Thompson has traveled on assignment to over sixty countries, written and edited several guidebooks, and worked as an editor at four magazines. On our list to read soon is Chuck Thompson's other travel book, To Hellholes and Back: Bribes, Lies and the Art of Extreme Tourism (2009), described on his website as a "put-up or shut-up follow-up" to the criticism of travel writing in Smile When You're Lying. He is the author of the widely reviewed Better Off Without ’Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession (2012) and a two-volume World War II survey, regarded as the most comprehensive catalog of World War II sites in existence.
“Those reflections piled up in notebooks and those notebooks eventually led to a dog-eared epiphany. I wanted to write about travel the way I experienced it, not the way the travel business wants readers, wants you, to imagine it is. The presumption that readers have the intellectual curiosity of a squirrel monekey and the moral range of an Amish yam farmer has worn thin. This book is a small effort to correct the travel industry's bias against candor and honesty. Or at least a way to pay it back for both the good times and the trouble it's given me.”
- Chuck Thompson, introduction to Smile When You're Lying
“Consistently irreverent, Thompson is wickedly entertaining . . . reminiscent of Chuck Klosterman and David Foster Wallace . . . Thompson asks the right questions about why we travel, how we travel and what we expect from the experience. The unvarnished reality in these pages might just make you more eager than ever to hit the road.”
- San Francisco Chronicle
“A rare victim’s-eye view into the world of travel marketing and the nervous, unmoored corporate weenies who populate it . . . Fascinating reading, in a plane-crash sort of way.”
- Washington Post