Publishers Weekly, 1994-10-31 While some of these essays transcend the limited range of their focus, the majority have the shallow immediacy of anecdotes told around a bar. There are endless accounts of nightmarish trips by boat, car and bus (too many people, lots of bad smells) and, more banal, airplane; horrifying stays in squalid hotels (insect invasions, faulty plumbing, rooms let by the hour); and hellish encounters with the locals (more bad smells, unsavory behavior). Sometimes these 49 tales-introduced by Mary Morris and with a rebuttal by Jan Morris-are amusing, but too often even the authors appear more dutiful than interested, and many stories end patly. The best, however, offer glimpses into the rewards promised by travel-enlightenment, a taste of the exotic, insight into human behavior. Eric Hansen's account of a sleepless winter night passed among the homeless in Grand Central Station and Paul Theroux's claustrophobic Christmas in Central Africa fall into this category; so do Larry O'Connor's moving description of a slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Suzanne Lipsett's encounter with an American couple in Bangkok, circa 1968. All reflect Pico Iyer's belief that ``the one great glory of traveling is that hardship is always redeemed by commotion recollected in tranquility.'' These authors, and half a dozen others, seem changed by their experiences; the rest rather blithely have shrugged theirs off. (Dec.)
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