Saturday, May 8, 2010

One for the Road

Goodreads Summary: After a year working an office job in Sydney, author and Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaperman Tony Horwitz finds himself longing for the open road. Spurred on by a colleague's "Aren't you a little too old for this game?" he sets off on a 7,000-mile adventure around Australia, hitchhiking to Alice Springs and beyond: through desolate mining towns, sheep stations, countless bush pubs (do not attempt to match his beer intake), and the forbidding, Martianesque emptinesses of Australian deserts. On the way he encounters hostile, friendly, and downright strange natives; jumps a train; survives a harrowing accident; and uses his relentless sense of humor to face down a cyclone.

This book was a big disappointment for me. One of my all time favorite books is Horwitz's Baghdad Without a Map. My distaste was not with Horwitz or his storytelling, rather it was with the Australian outback. What a truly awful sounding place. As far as I could tell, all anybody did was drink. Drink to beyond excess, drink while driving, drink while walking to the next bar.

There were interesting parts of the book. Coober Pedy is a town in South Australia. Most building are underground. The heat is so intense that it makes sense to live in dugouts rather than to pay for A/C. It looks fairly cool from pictures on the internet, but after a night Horwitz writes, "I have never wanted to get out of town as much as I want to leave Coober Pedy." So even the interesting still sounds miserable.

Skip this one, but don't write Horwitz off. Like I said, Baghdad Without a Map is one of my favorites. His other books (Blue Latitudes, A Voyage Long and Strange, and Confederates in the Attic) are well-worth the read. And remember, when/if you eat at Outback, you need a LOT of alcohol to have a realistic experience.

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