It’s no shock to hear that writing for travel magazines involves a lot of airbrushing to make things prettier. After all, the industry that publishes them, fueled by advertising, wants readers to fall for every last word and then start buying the miles. What’s most noticeable about seasoned travel writer Chuck Thompson’s Smile When You’re Lying: Confessions of a Rogue Traveler is the venom with which he makes his point. “Call it my revenge,” he says in the introduction to this energetic book of gritty dispatches from around the world. Thai prostitutes, debauched businessmen, stoned backpackers, miserable hospitality workers — this is not the stuff of Travel & Leisure. One highlight has Thompson challenging a journalist friend who specializes in covering the Caribbean to convince him that the whole region doesn’t just totally suck. Along the way he also offers helpful tips such as “No white man should ever wear a sarong, not even in private.” The downside here is how often Thompson resorts to an acerbic view. Take this line: “The new age of travel is about more than waiting in line so that a sixty-year-old TSA biddy can wave a security wand in front of your crotch.” When Thompson isn’t just aimlessly snarking around, this book is a smart and amusing diversion. –
About the Writer
Janet Steen has written for The New York Times, Salon, Details, Time Out New York, and many other publications. An essay of hers was included in the bestselling anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York. She is a founding editor of the online essay site The Weeklings.