The Trouble With ‘Smile When You’re Lying’

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.

We Don’t (Really) Know Jack

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.

The Last Antiwar Poem

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.”

Remembering Laurel Lee

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…

Remembering the Hippie Trail

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.

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