Travel Writing

Travel Writing

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by Peter Ferry
     
 

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Pete Ferry, our narrator, teaches high school English in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Forest and moonlights as a travel writer. On his way home after work one evening he witnesses a car accident that kills a beautiful woman named Lisa Kim. But was it an accident? Could Pete have prevented it? And did it actually happen, or is this just an elaborate tale he

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Overview

Pete Ferry, our narrator, teaches high school English in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Forest and moonlights as a travel writer. On his way home after work one evening he witnesses a car accident that kills a beautiful woman named Lisa Kim. But was it an accident? Could Pete have prevented it? And did it actually happen, or is this just an elaborate tale he concocts to impart the power of story to his teenage students? Why can’t he stop thinking about Lisa Kim? And what might his obsession with her mean to his relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia?

With humor, tenderness, and suspense, Travel Writing takes readers on fascinating journeys, both geographical and psychological, and delves into the notion that the line between fact and fiction is often negotiable.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Debut novelist Ferry builds his quietly tricky tale around an English teacher's amateur investigation into a traffic fatality. Driving home from work, narrator Pete Ferry pulls up beside a car being erratically driven; Pete considers taking action, but before he can, the car crashes into a lamp post, killing Lisa Kim, the young driver. The event haunts Pete, a high school English teacher and occasional travel writer, and he soon neglects his professional duties as he looks into who Lisa was and why she died. Pete is so obsessed with his quarry that he does not notice that his relationship with live-in girlfriend Lydia is failing, though he does turn up leads to Lisa's heroin connection and a sinister psychiatrist. Or perhaps not: Pete addresses much of his narrative to his English class, and it is not clear whether the reader is meant to believe that the car accident and ensuing intrigues have actually happened, or if Pete has invented them to teach his students a lesson about storytelling. The result is a novel that, for all the cleverness of its construction, is also earnest, engrossing and affecting. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

Ferry's undeniably clever debut novel, full of metafictional razzle-dazzle, is about a high school English teacher, also named Peter Ferry, who hooks his students on a story of murder and obsession. Patient listeners with a taste for fiction about fiction will find ample rewards, though Anthony Heald's (www.anthonyheald.com) carefully enunciated reading is slightly at odds with the book's conversational tone. This is an admirable title that is nonetheless difficult to recommend as essential since it hasn't resonated in print with a large audience. If you buy strictly on merit, though, go for it. [With tracks every three minutes for bookmarking; audio clip available through blackstoneaudio.com; the Harcourt hc was recommended "for readers interested in experimental fiction and psychological puzzles," LJ5/1/08.-Ed.]
—John Hiett

School Library Journal

Adult/High School

Ferry takes readers on a storyteller's journey. As a high school English teacher and part-time travel writer, he uses fictionalized situations to engage his students' interest, and readers can never quite be sure whether he is telling them about real or fictitious events. After witnessing a fatal car accident, which Ferry believes he could have prevented, he finds himself drawn into the story of Lisa Kim, the victim. The book moves back and forth between Ferry's life and past and his connections, real or imagined, to Lisa Kim. The author does not follow chronological order or standard format in his story line, but instead moves between the past and present to allow readers a glimpse into the impact they have on others. Or do they? When the narrator delivers the line "what I'm saying is that very often illusion is all we have," it does make readers wonder if they have been taken for a ride. This book provides a unique, stylish, and challenging read for AP literature students and/or those interested in creative writing and the writing process.-Janet Melikian, Central High School East, Fresno, CA

Kirkus Reviews
Imagination and literal truth collide intriguingly in this Chinese-box puzzle about a man obsessed with a car crash . . . or is he?First-time novelist Ferry gives his own versatile professional life, as well as his name, to his protagonist: a high-school teacher in the upscale Chicago suburb of Lake Forest who moonlights as a writer of travel essays. Narrator Pete Ferry's carefully orchestrated life becomes surreal after he witnesses a traffic accident in which a young woman named Lisa Kim is killed. Or so Pete tells his writing students-a roomful of quick-witted teenagers, each sharply individualized-adding the playful codicil that the incident may not have actually occurred, may instead be an idea intended to challenge their creative powers. What Pete believes gradually emerges from a constantly shifting narrative in which he journeys to various places (Mexico, Thailand, Ontario) for writing assignments, shares his speculations and suspicions with friends and nearly runs aground irreparably with Lydia, who either is or isn't the woman he loves. Obsessed with the mysterious Lisa Kim, a gifted actress and perhaps also a promiscuous drug addict, Pete attends her funeral, is mistaken for someone close to her and slowly closes in on crucial details about her death. He'd briefly glimpsed another car at the scene of the accident, and he eventually encounters its occupant in a tense denouement that confirms his hunches. Unless, as he reports back to his students, he's made the whole thing up. This is a witty novel about its own provenance, an exploration of the ambiguous ways in which the writer's imagination works. Its sly circumlocutions recall Frederick Exley's classic 1968 anti-novel AFan's Notes, and the motions of its perfectly engineered plot raise memories of Humbert Humbert stalking archvillain Clare Quilty in Nabokov's Lolita. Novel or not-novel, it's one hell of a fictional debut. Agent: Lorin Rees/Helen Rees Literary Agency
Chicago Tribune - Donna Seaman

"Travel Writing is an absolute pleasure to read. It is ensnaring, funny, suspenseful, smart and poignant.... Peter Ferry fits stories within stories like mirrors reflecting mirrors to expose our assumptions about fact and the imagination. When his protagonist declares, 'I am a teacher and a storyteller in that order,' he offers a clue to the mission underliying this immensely entertaining, keenly conceived and brilliantly realized puzzle of a novel. Ferry is offering us a covert refresher course in the revelatory power of story, the responsibility of writers and the unending hunger for truth."

Entertainment Weekly

"Shockingly, it succeeds as both a rich character study and a twisty whodunit, adding one more voice to the lively conversation about the boundaries between memoir and fiction. A- "
Booklist

"[A] winning first novel...Ferry's prose is so entrancing, his mild-mannered yet covertly audacious hero is so compelling, there is nothing intrusive or pretentious about this metafiction setup...A mordently funny and diabolically smart novel of happenstance and responsibility."

Time Magazines Literary Supplement (UK)
"Compelling.... Ferry builds suspense skillfully.... Travel Writing illustrates the power of several kinds of story: love stories, travelogues, parables, family anecdotes, moral tales and the yarns people tell after a few beers late at night..."
The Observer (UK)

"[T]his is a soulful and well-written page-turner."

Arena Magazine (UK)

"Ferry's first novel is a fresh take on the sometimes fatigued option that writers take of writing about writing, as he intelligently plays with the notions of fact and fiction, illusion and reality.... A playful, thoughtful debut."
Nuvo Newsweekly

A darn good yarn, capable of taking you to that place where all you want to do is turn the next page...to see what happens next.

Los Angeles Times

One of those fabulously intricate novels in which you never quite know what is true and what is not--a book that becomes an exercise and exploration of the ubiquitous existence of storytelling in our lives. In other words, a perfect first novel.

Washington Post Book World

Peter Ferry's carefully wrought first novel...comes alive in the classroom and on the road. What draws us into "Travel Writing" is the author's pure love of teaching and his thirst for travel.

Dave Eggers

"The book is totally captivating and page-turning on one level, beautifully written and in touch with the good living of life (in a Hemingway sort of way) on another level, and all the while it raises all kinds of fascinating questions about fiction and fact, the writing process and teaching of literature. That it does all this and manages to be always honest and full of soul is truly remarkable."

Joe Queenan

"An ingenious novel: part mystery, part love story, partly a commentary on the art of writing fiction itself. A post-modern Rear Window with some snappy travel writing thrown in. A splendid debut by a novelist who has clearly spent a lot of time thinking about novels."

Big Issue (UK) - Emmanuelle Smith

"Truly gripping."
Literary Review (UK) - Philip Womack

"Genuinely thrilling and leads to a powerful and troubling climax."
Aesthetica Magazine (UK)

"Peter Ferry's first novel immediately captures the reader's imagination, drawing you into a story filled with humour, tenderness and suspense...as entertaining as it is intriguing and not to be missed."
Free Lance-Star - Kurt Rabin

On the strength of his new fiction...his next signing ought to be for a multi-book deal...Travel Writing is a memoir, a travelogue, and a detective story. It's great storytelling delights.

Chicago Sun Times - Mary Houlihan

In the cleverly constructed novel, Ferry toys with some interesting ideas, mainly the line that exists between fact and fiction.

From the Publisher

ADVANCE PRAISE FOR TRAVEL WRITING

"The book is totally captivating and page-turning on one level, completely soulful and honest on another level, beautifully written and in touch with the good living of life (in a Hemingway sort of way) on another level still, and all the while it raises all kinds of fascinating questions about fiction and fact and the writing process (without ever being too clever or coy)."—Dave Eggers, author of What Is the What

Times Literary Supplement (UK)

"Compelling.... Ferry builds suspense skillfully.... Travel Writing illustrates the power of several kinds of story: love stories, travelogues, parables, family anecdotes, moral tales and the yarns people tell after a few beers late at night..."

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780156033923
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
07/09/2009
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Meet the Author


PETER FERRY is a teacher, writer, and editor. He has written textbooks for Rand McNally and travel pieces for the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times. His short stories have appared in StoryQuarterly, Overtures, the New Review of Literature, and McSweeney's. He has won the Illinois Arts Council Literary Award for Short Fiction. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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Travel Writing 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
VickiLN More than 1 year ago
Pete Ferry is a teacher who also works as a newspaper travel writer. One day he starts telling his students a story of a man named Pete Ferry who witnessed a woman named Lisa Kim, a stranger, crash her car and die. The police think it's an accident, but Pete thinks there is more to it than that. He can't seem to stop thinking about her and ends up going to her funeral, where her family mistakes him for the boyfriend they never met. He doesn't tell them any different and they give him a letter Lisa wrote to "P", telling him how much she loves him. This sets Pete on a mission to find "P". All this time and energy he is spending on finding out more about Lisa is putting a strain on his relationship with his girlfriend, but he can't seem to stop. He feels he must find out the truth. This book covers it all. There is mystery, romance, humor and suspense. I thought this book was very good, especially for a first time author. I am still trying to figure out if this is a true story or not. I loved this book and will probably read again. I'll also be on the lookout for more books by Peter Ferry.
christinezeg More than 1 year ago
Peter Ferry, narrator in Travel Writing, is a high school English teacher and part-time travel writer. In an effort to inspire his somewhat apathetic students, he tells them a story about an incident that happened to him on his way home. Peter was driving behind an obviously impaired driver. When they reached a stop light, there was a brief moment of eye contact with the stunning woman driver, then the other vehicle sped away and Peter witnessed the deadly crash of the other car and the death of its driver Lisa Kim. He believes he may have been able to prevent the car crash and embarks on a mission to discover Lisa Kim's history and what may have led to her accident. The mission soon turns to into an obsession which threatens to destroy his job and his relationship. Peter attends Lisa Kim's funeral. meets members of her family under false pretenses, searches for an ex-boyfriend, and investigates her doctor who seems to have somehow contributed to her death. The book not only tells the story of Peter's preoccupation, it also is s study into the disintegration of the relationship with his long-term girlfriend mixed with discussions with his friends and flashbacks to his some of his travels. When Peter's students recognize the name of a counselor and some other characters, they ask Peter whether the story is true. Peter explains that some but not all of the elements are based on facts. "I don't understand," says Nick. "Well, it just works better that way," I say. "I'm not sure I agree," says the girl whose hair is blue today, "and I definitely don't buy this hypnotism stuff. That sounds hokey to me. Sounds like Seinfeld or something." "But that's the part that's true," I say. "Gene really does use hypnotism and he really did use it on me." "Now let's see," says Nick. "You put something in that isn't true because it works better, and you put something in that doesn't work because it's true. I'm not sure you can have it both ways." "Sure I can; it's my story," I say. Sounds like a pretty straight-forward book. Then you realize that Peter Ferry, author of Travel Writing, is also a high school English teacher and part-time travel writer. This brings up the question - is the story of Lisa Kim based on an experience of the author? Did he actually jeopardize his relationships? Did he tell this story to one of his English classes. Travel Writing is a truly creative work. I was caught up in the story and caught up in the question of how blurry is the line between fact and fiction.
debbook More than 1 year ago
synopsis Pete Ferry, our narrator, teaches high school English in the wealthy Chicago suburb of Lake Forest and moonlights as a travel writer. On his way home after work one evening he witnesses a car accident that kills a beautiful woman named Lisa Kim. But was it an accident? Could Pete have prevented it? And did it actually happen, or is this just an elaborate tale he concocts to impart the power of story to his teenage students? Why can't he stop thinking about Lisa Kim? And what might his obsession with her mean to his relationship with his girlfriend, Lydia? With humor, tenderness, and suspense, Travel Writing takes readers on fascinating journeys, both geographical and psychological, and delves into the notion that the line between fact and fiction is often negotiable. The story starts with Pete Ferry telling his students a story about driving home one night and the accident of a woman named Lisa Kim. Ferry becomes obsessed with this woman he didn't know, wondering how the accident could have been prevented at various times in the evening by those that encountered her. He then takes us back through his past, from college to his travels to Mexico, Thailand and then back to the present. He is trying to track down another Peter Carey that was involved with Lisa Kim. This was a very interesting novel and hard to tell which is the "truth" and which parts are made up by Peter Ferry the storytelling teacher, trying to engage his students. Though I got lost a bit as the plot moves around, I think that was the author's intention. Part mystery, part travel guide, part one man's obsession, this book is never boring and left me still wondering when the book came to the end. It was very well written, humorous, and creative. It was very enjoyable and refreshing. my rating 4/5 http://bookmagic418.blogspot.com/
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
An interesting concept; the author and the lead character have the same name and similar lives. Makes you wonder if there is truth in this fictional story. I enjoyed "Travel Writing" as it Peter Ferry has a way of writing that pulls you in. I liked the way he begins with Ferry (the character) teaching a writing class and conversing with his students and comes up with what may or may not be a story about the accident of this beautiful woman. It's funny, dramatic, part-mystery, romantic and stimulating.