"Smile When You're Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer"
Reading history and reviews
Finished in 2008I really enjoyed this book (another that Kyle bought me, this time for Valentine's day) however it's rather difficult to categorise - the subtitle "Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer" doesn't really do it justice. Although as an (ex?) travel writer Chuck Thompson clearly has a beef with the travel writing industry (and airs it frequently), the various chapters are far more varied than just "telling it like it really is" - for example, the stories of how big oil ruined Alaska and his time as an English teacher in Japan couldn't really be called travel writing, although they (like the story of his short-lived editorship of Travelocity's ill-fated travel magazine) are fascinating and often very funny.
I found it was the little details of his life as a travel hack that were most revealing about how the travel writing industry. For example in one memorable segment he recounts how he and his girlfriend try to enjoy a luxurious meal in a romantic Carribean setting, while the PR woman for the hotel that have paid for it sits and ruins it for them. Ultimately it seems that it's in no-one's interests to "tell it like it is" - travel writers so poor that they can't afford to turn down the next commission, and know that a bad review would be career suicide.
Aside from all that Thompson has an engaging and very readable style and also offers some interesting takes on how the world has changed in many ways over the last 20 years as he's travelled around. It was a great read - thanks Kyle!