Tantric sex, and my story in this year’s Best American Travel Writing


I’m happy to announce that “Tantric Sex for Dilettantes,” my India travel tale from Perceptive Travel, was selected by Tim Cahill for inclusion in the 2006 edition of Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Travel Writing , which came out this month. This is the first time I’ve had a story among the main selections of The Best American Travel Writing since 2000, when Bill Bryson chose Storming ‘The Beach’ for the inaugural edition.

Other writers whose travel essays made it into the 2006 collection (which is co-edited by Jason Wilson) include Pico Iyer, P.J. O’Rourke, David Sedaris, Ian Frazier, Alain de Botton, Calvin Trillin, Tom Bissell, George Saunders, Mark Jenkins, Heidi Julavits, Tony Perrottet, Gary Shteyngart, and Patrick Symmes.

In the introduction, Cahill explains how all of the stories he selected “touched me in one way or another, changed an attitude, made me laugh aloud, or provided fuel for my dreams.” Cahill goes on to claim we’re in the midst of a “golden age of travel writing,” and emphasizes the importance of storytelling in a travel narrative:

My own opinion is that “story” is the essence of the travel essay. Stories are the way we organize the chaos in our lives, orchestrate voluminous factual material, and — if we are very good — shed some light on the human condition, such as it is.

I realize that there are many very good travel writers, people who interview this person and that, eliciting contrasting views in the manner of a good daily reporter, and those fine writers did not find their way into this book, due entirely to my own prejudice in the matter. Information is of immense value, but if I can’t find a story, I often feel I’m being beaten over the head with an encyclopedia. Stories are the sole written instruments that can bring tears to our eyes, or make us laugh, or even — God forbid — compel us to think, and thereby perhaps even take a position.

Additionally, they’re generally more fun to read. (In my entirely biased opinion.)

So in choosing pieces for this anthology, I’ve looked for the best stories I could find and was brutal in eliminating purely informational material. …In this book, our storytellers have blundered across the globe and come back with essays and articles that I hope will make you laugh, cry, think, and perhaps dream.

Considering the travel stories I wrote in 2005, I figured my satirical meta-essay for World Hum, The Art of Writing a Story About Walking Across Andorra, stood the greatest chance of landing in the best-of-the-year collection.

Thus, I was somewhat surprised when my self-deprecating Rishikesh tale “Tantric Sex for Dilettantes” made the cut instead (the Andorra piece landed in the ‘Notable Selections’ section in the back of the book).

In the introduction, Cahill explains that he chose my India Tantra story for the novelty of its sexual motif:

You don’t see a lot of erotica in travel writing. In fact, you don’t see any. My friend, Don George, the global editor at Lonely Planet, once asked various writers to contribute to a book he wanted to call The Erotic Traveler. Few of us were able to dredge up a suitable story. Nobody wants to get naked in front of several hundred thousand strangers, for one thing. For another, sexual encounters between well-heeled travelers and impoverished people in developing countries feels . . . well, wrong. This year, someone got it right, as you will see in Rolf Potts’s story about Tantric yoga for dilettantes.

For those interested in checking out this year’s travel-story collection, The Best American Travel Writing 2006 can be found in most bookstores, and is also sold online .

Posted by | Comments (3)  | October 20, 2006
Category: Travel Writing

3 Responses to “Tantric sex, and my story in this year’s Best American Travel Writing”

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