Book review: Chuck Thompson’s ‘Confessions of a Rogue Travel Writer’ slams modern travel writing as mediocre, if not dishonest. But glossy magazines aren’t the only venues that create a fictional matrix to lure audiences: Books like Thompson’s tend to sell themselves on overstatement, as well as the exaggerated sense that the reader is getting privileged information.
Commentary: Though innovative and inspiring, “On the Road” is a bad blueprint for life on the road. Kerouac’s characters might cover a lot of miles between San Francisco and New York, but their adventures along the way are rarely more remarkable than what one might encounter in the freshman-pledge wing of a fraternity house.
Although the Books page of RolfPotts.com outlines my contributions to a number of literary travel anthologies in recent years, it doesn’t mention my appearance in three small-press fiction anthologies between 1999 and 2002. This is because, until recently, I never even knew these books existed. All of the stories in question were originally written when…
Literary criticism: 50 years on, Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” reads like a drug-addled, homoerotic variation of “Jackass.” If we aspire this year to recognize the anniversary of a Ginsberg poem that still seems relevant and challenging, we should fast-forward ten years to 1966, when the iconic Beat poet penned “Wichita Vortex Sutra.”
Book reviews: In a round-up of top travel books for the Travel Channel’s World Hum, Rolf sings the praises of Pico Iyer’s Video Night in Kathmandu (#8), Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard (#11), Tim Cahill’s Road Fever (#21), Tony Horwitz’s Baghdad Without a Map (#26), and Jeffrey Tayler’s Facing the Congo (#28).
My favorite writing teacher from my college days, memoirist Laurel Lee, died of pancreatic cancer last week in Oregon. She was 58 years old. Laurel was perhaps best known for her 1977 book Walking Through the Fire, which was a Christian-themed account of her simultaneous struggle with Hodgkin’s disease, a dangerous pregnancy, and the fact…
Book Review: As David Tomory’s A Season in Heaven reveals, the wanderers of the 1960s and 1970s were creative and intrepid — but they also tended to be petty, competitive, self-ghettoizing, and self-deluding. In short, they had the same charms and weaknesses as any self-conscious, authenticity-seeking counterculture movement of the last half-century.
This morning, I went on my obligatory monthly visa run to Kawthaung, the small Burmese border town that lies about 20 minutes by boat from my temporary home in Ranong, Thailand. Ranong is where I come to hole up and get my writing done, so I always welcome this visa run, which takes me across…
When he tries to infiltrate a movie set on a heavily guarded Thai island, Rolf embarks on a rollicking post-modern travel adventure, somewhat starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
Book Review: Robert Bly’s The Sibling Society is the latest doom-oracle for those born after the advent of polyester clothing. Conveniently, society is never as good as it was during the time when a given doomsayer came of age, and everything since has been a slippery slide on the downward spiral.