Video: Rolf reads at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris

Part I: Rolf reads from Marco Polo Didn’t Go There

Over on my video page, I recently uploaded a two-part video of my July 2009 reading at Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Paris. I’ve informally read essays there in the past (alongside students from my annual writing workshop at the Paris American Academy) but this is the first time I’ve done an official event for the bookstore’s Monday-evening reading series. Other authors who’ve participated in this series include Jonathan Safran Foer, Michelle Tea, Dave Eggers, and the fictional writer played by Ethan Hawke in Richard Linklater’s 2004 film Before Sunset.

Because it was rainy on the day of my reading, my event took place on the second floor of the bookstore. The light coming in from the window behind me compromises the picture quality on the video, but the audio comes through just fine. Part I of the video (embedded above) will be familiar to anyone who’s attended my Marco Polo Didn’t Go There book events: I read from my “Tantric Sex For Dilettantes” chapter, then go on to read the humorous annotations from Chapter 15, which highlight the idiosyncrasies of a character named Mr. Ibrahim.

The second part of the video (embedded below) features a Q&A session with the Shakespeare and Co. audience. Topics I discuss include the ethics of tourist economies, the sometimes-tainted reputation of travel writing, how one can get to know a city through a single neighborhood block, the anthropology of tourist behavior, the idea that refugees are the true “adventure travelers,” the origin of the title “Marco Polo Didn’t Go There,” Bruce Chatwin’s decision to not include Salman Rushdie in The Songlines, and the future of travel writing in the digital age.

Part II: Q&A about the ethics and idiosyncrasies of travel writing

Posted by | Comments (3)  | September 28, 2009
Category: General, Rolf's News and Updates

3 Responses to “Video: Rolf reads at Shakespeare & Co. in Paris”

  1. Dave Says:

    Hey Rolf – I enjoyed both videos, and look forward to checking out your latest book in the near future.

    This reminded me that the last video I had watched of you speaking was from a brown-bag lunch at a Google office (in NYC I think). That was posted sometime in 2007, because I watched it before my RTW trip. It feels like yesterday.

    I specifically remember one audience member asking the question of whether it is better to travel first, and write second, or if you can begin your travel writing before you’ve extensively traveled. Your advice was to travel first, and write second. That definitely stuck with me. Thanks!

  2. Lindsey Says:

    Dear Professor Potts,
    You studied tourism anthropology, you might need a hobby, but then again, I have also so…
    My two favorite highlighted home-hitting quotes from Death of an Adventure Traveler
    “didn’t want to read about journeys that were obscure or complicated; they wanted exotic challenges wherein they might test-or, at least, imagine themselves testing-the extremes of human experience.”

    “wanted me to create a tantalizing recipe for the exotic and the unexpected-but only the kind of ‘unexpected’ that could be planned in advance and completed in less than three weeks”

    And for those very thoughts drilled into my mind, facilitating the dishing out of cookie-cutter package tours, I resigned from a manager’s job to retain my dignity.

    Thanks for sharing the slice of your Paris journey.