Falling off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World

Overview

Showing the same sympathy and eye for the absurd that made VIDEO NIGHT IN KATHMANDU such a delight, Pico Iyer now turns to places that most of us would make a point of avoiding. Places like Paraguay, Iceland, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Bhutan.

"Lonely places," Iyer calls them, "the places that don't fit in," places that in their psychic or geographic or political isolation become even stranger and more remote as time goes on, more possessed by claustrophobia and loony comedy.

"Immensely resonant: a funny, ...

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Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of The World

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Overview

Showing the same sympathy and eye for the absurd that made VIDEO NIGHT IN KATHMANDU such a delight, Pico Iyer now turns to places that most of us would make a point of avoiding. Places like Paraguay, Iceland, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam and Bhutan.

"Lonely places," Iyer calls them, "the places that don't fit in," places that in their psychic or geographic or political isolation become even stranger and more remote as time goes on, more possessed by claustrophobia and loony comedy.

"Immensely resonant: a funny, stimulating, eminently humane work." (Kirkus Reviews)

The author of Video Night in Kathmandu ups the ante on himself in this sublimely evocative and acerbically funny tour through the world's loneliest and most eccentric places. From Iceland to Bhutan to Argentina, Iyer remains both uncannily observant and hilarious.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Time journalist Iyer's cosmopolitan travelogue explores the cultural isolation of such regions as North Korea, Iceland and Bhutan. May
Library Journal
Only some of the ``lonely places'' covered in this book North Korea, Argentina, Cuba, Iceland, Bhutan, Vietnam, Paraguay, Australia are isolated by geography, but all are culturally or politically isolated. That few tourist itineraries include these misfit countries increases their sense of being alone in the world. Iyer, a journalist for Time and Conde Nast Traveler , writes in a cool, ironic style similar to that of the late Bruce Chatwin. His essays are more impressionistic than informative and seem intended for armchair travelers rather than adventurers. At times, Iyer is a bit too detached, too unruffled by what he experiences. He does not fully convey to us the strangeness of the strange places he has visited. Despite the lack of emotion, Iyer's impressions make interesting reading. Recommended for public libraries.-- Mary C. Kalfatovic, Telesec Lib. Svces., Washington, D.C.
Kirkus Reviews
As he did in The Lady and the Monk (1991) and Video Night in Kathmandu (1988), Iyer again turns his attention to the quirky and the quixotic, this time in what he calls "the et ceteras in the list of nations." Included in these "lonely places" are Iceland, Paraguay, Vietnam, Argentina, and Australia. Iyer confesses early on to a lifelong attraction to regions that in "their very remoteness" take on an "air of haunted glamour." He doesn't necessarily mean geographically distant, though Bhutan and Patagonia are among his destinations. Rather, it's the psychological and economic isolation of these areas—occasioned by, for example, lack of tourism and international investment—that intrigues the author. Iyer depicts with wonder and affection the varied idiosyncracies he encounters, studding his narrative with colorful, off-beat facts—e.g., that, by law, one evening each year the members of the Icelandic Parliament must speak in rhyme. Throughout, Iyer displays a winning, self- deprecatory humor. When a Cuban doctor asks him to touch his nose with his eyes closed, the author jokes, "Luckily, it is a big target: I pass with flying colors." Iyer's also aware of the dichotomies that exist within the countries he visits. Vietnam, despite decades of war, is "one of the gentlest and most peaceful countries I have ever seen." His comments on that nation's eagerness to enter the world economic market are revelatory and unexpected: "It is impossible not to feel that Saigon, with its Ca-Li-Pho-Nia Ham-Bu-Go stores and its karaoke bars, its Chiclets and water ski clubs, its private Mercedeses and hustlers and `Atlanta Placons' baseball caps—Saigon, with its rogueeconomy—is the image of the country's future." Economically written yet immensely resonant: a funny, stimulating, eminently humane work, charming and instructive.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780736627238
  • Publisher: Books on Tape, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/1/1994
  • Format: Cassette
  • Edition description: Unabridged, 7 Cassettes

Meet the Author

Pico Iyer

Pico Iyer has written nonfiction books on globalism, Japan, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and forgotten places, and novels on Revolutionary Cuba and Islamic mysticism. He regularly writes on literature for The New York Review of Books, on travel for the Financial Times, and on global culture and the news for Time, The New York Times, and magazines around the world.

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    1. Hometown:
      Japan

Table of Contents

A Prefatory Note
Lonely Places 3
North Korea: My Holiday with Kim Il Sung 11
Argentina: La Dolce Vita Meets "The Hyper" 24
Cuba: An Elegiac Carnival 48
Iceland: Rock 'n' Roll Ghost Town 66
Bhutan: Hidden Inside the Hidden Kingdom 84
Vietnam: Yesterday Once More 112
Paraguay: Up for Sale, or Adoption 142
Australia: Five Thousand Miles from Anywhere 173
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