The Best American Travel Writing 2005


This month marks the release of the latest edition in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Travel Writing series, edited by Jason Wilson, with novelist Jamaica Kincaid serving as the guest editor. As is the case each year, the volume provides a fascinating vicarious read for armchair travelers, and a nice sampling of great writing for aspiring (and working) travel scribes to study and emulate.

“And what of the essays here?” writes Kincaid in the introduction. “Every one of them reminds me of two of the many sentiments attached to the travel narrative: curiosity and displacement. None of them are about a night’s stay in a nice hotel anywhere; none of them chronicle a day at a beach. They were not chosen to say something about the state of American travel writing; they were chosen because I simply liked them. …These essays stimulate my curiosity; they underline my sense of my displacement.”

Writers who landed essays in this year’s edition include Tom Bissell, Peter Hessler, and Kira Salak — a trio whose regular appearance in the Best American series make them the top three talents to watch among the younger generation of travel writers. Other prominent writers making an appearance in the anthology include J. Michael Fay, Ian Frazier (who guest edited the 2003 edition), Jim Harrison, William Least Heat-Moon, Pam Houston, Mark Jenkins, John McPhee, Robert Young Pelton, David Quammen, Seth Stevenson, William T. Vollmann and Simon Winchester.

I managed to land three of my own travel articles on the “Notable Writing of 2004” section — “Jolly Good Excuse for a Party”, which appeared in Conde Nast Traveler; “A Desert by Any Other Name”, from the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine; and “Signs of Confusion” from World Hum. This marks the sixth consecutive year I’ve made the Best American short-list, and the first time since Paul Theroux’s 2001 edition that three of my essays were nominated in the same year. Other authors of note with essays on the short-list include Christopher Hitchens, Don George, Pico Iyer, Wendy Knight, Thomas Swick, and 2005 Paris American Academy guest speakers Elisabeth Eaves and Jeffrey Tayler.

Posted by | Comments Off on The Best American Travel Writing 2005  | October 24, 2005
Category: Travel Writing

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