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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
This collection of travel essays features fearless wanderer Tim Cahill battling driver ants, tsetse flies, and other vermin in the Congo; studying yoga in Jamaica; fleeing from bandits in the Sahara; and -- gasp! -- teaching a writing class in Indiana. As Cahill tells his students, travel writing does not necessarily require distance; and while many of his trips involve a degree of danger that seems to delight the author of Pass the Butterworms and Jaguars Ripped My Flesh, neither is personal endangerment a prerequisite. So what do these adventures have in common?
Well, Cahill is a master of observing the inane human behavior that transcends geography and amplifying it to hilarious effect. He devotes one piece, for instance, to the bug scream, described as, “a kind of high-pitched, astonished loathing, that combines the ‘eeewww’ of disgust with the ‘waah’ of abject terror.” But there’s something more than humor uniting the pieces in Hold the Enlightenment, which were culled from such varied publications as Modern Maturity, Yoga Journal, Outside magazine, and the anthology A Man’s Guide to Simple Abundance. It is, seemingly, the one thing that Cahill, who professes to be “pretty much clueless in the what-does-it-all-mean department,” fears. It’s the thread that holds the book together and yet it is subtle enough to avoid weighing down what is otherwise a riotous good time. Call it what you will -- gravity, depth, profundity…. Just don’t call it enlightenment. Karen Burns