I came across this book on a travel-oriented Facebook group (though I forget which one), posted by the author, Joshua Samuel Brown. He had just published his collection of short stories on Amazon, and was looking for people to check it out.
About the Author
Joshua Samuel Brown is the co-author of thirteen travel guides, including two editions of Lonely Planet Taiwan (2007 and 2010), two editions of Lonely Planet Belize (2008 and 2011) and the Singapore City Guide (2008). He has also contributed to numerous magazines and publications and is the author of Vignettes of Taiwan (2005). Follow his blog, Snarky Tofu, or twitter.
So the Book…
On my quest to learn everything I can about travel writing, I have been reading any related material I can get my hands on. So, once again, I picked up a travel book with zero expectations. As it turned out, it was a collection of unrelated short stories about the author’s various experiences as an expat in Asia and on trips made for his job — writing articles and guidebooks in various locations. Each story ranged from a couple of pages to a dozen or so, and I flew through each of them.
The unique aspect of How Not to Avoid Jet Lag… is the almost psychedelic feel to several of the narratives without clarification of what’s real and what’s not. For instance, in the story “The Worst Place in the World”, the author describes a trip to IKEA as “Distortion of the time/space continuum coupled with an overwhelming sense of despair as everyday items take on strange, menacing dimensions and reality becomes a grotesquely exaggerated nightmare from which only the passage of time offers release.” His “reality” becomes progressively more distorted and reminiscent of scenes from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
Other stories, such as “Supper in Uyghurville” (a trek into the Muslim ghettos of Beijing in search of hashish) and “Blood and Condiment” (a close shave with the authorities while covered in blood and soy sauce), are grounded by facts and description, but their events are so bizarre the reader wonders how they could have happened in actual real life. But then, truth is stranger than fiction, amiright?
Brown also includes a couple of his dreams, which, naturally, are surreal. It speaks to the content of the true stories that the dreams fit without question beside them in this collection.
One of my favorite stories was “A Journey of Unspeakable Horror Through Quaintest Vermont”, a parody of a typical travel article whereby “Quaintest Vermont” is a collection of small satanic towns that collect and build pyramids out of skulls.
But to really experience the Pyramid’s glory it’s best to visit in mid-autumn, when the leaves are changing
Brown’s collection of stories is clever, psychedelic, and laugh-out-loud funny. Appropriately, I was finishing up the last couple of chapters as my plane touched down in Bozeman, MT. The flight was rough, with lots of turbulence, and the people around me seemed uneasy. I, however, was so enthralled by How Not to Avoid Jet Lag… that I chuckled constantly even as the wheels touched down.
An excellent, quick read for a good laugh. 5/5 Stars.
You can download How Not to Avoid Jet Lag and other tales of travel madness from Amazon.