A LITTLE FLIGHT READING
THE title sounds like the opener to a hoary old joke from the nightclub comedy circuit. But, according to Stephanie Elizondo Griest, this volume is about ‘‘ adventure, inspiration, celebration, empowerment and renewal’’. In short, it’s to do with travel for a reason. Why such ‘‘ votive journeys’’ should be the unique preserve of women, though, is a mystery and a marketing ploy.
However, despite the cutesy-pie American set-up and approach— ‘‘ Sometimes we simply need to remember that there’s a twosteppin’ cowgirl within each of us,’’ Holly Morris, author of Adventure Divas , writes in her introduction — there are great ideas here.
Cut through the girlfriend guff to a digest of info on ‘‘ places of purification and beautification’’ (such as hot springs in Japan), famed chocolate sites (Perugia, in Umbria, holds a 10-day Eurochocolate fiesta each October) and best destinations to learn the tango and belly-dancing.
One has to wonder when the market will reach saturation with quick-grab books of this sort. Let’s at least hope we are over the ‘‘ travel before you die’’ genre: how many of us ever planned to go anywhere as a corpse? Susan Kurosawa Fiji David Stanley (Moon Handbooks, $39.95) MOON doesn’t have quite the global reach of Lonely Planet, Rough Guides or the two big Fs of the US publishing world, Frommers and Fodors. But its umbrella company, Avalon Travel Publishing — an amalgam of Moon, John Muir Publications and Foghorn Press — is the largest independent travel publisher in the US.
Moon’s handbooks first appeared in 1973 with titles marketed as ‘‘ the cure for the common trip’’; now there are more than 100 destinations covered, including this seventh edition of Fiji, which will be updated in September. So readers can expect lots more detail to come on new products and accommodation.
Meantime, this version is wellorganised, full of useful background and cultural detail (kava ceremony etiquette, the practice of firewalking), and with an excellent series of maps that identifies even the tiniest specks in the Fiji Islands chain.
Stanley has been involved since the first edition in 1985; he has been travelling around the Pacific since 1978 and has written other handbooks on the region for Moon. The Fiji-bound traveller is in good hands. (As this guide is about to be superseded, check online sites for best prices: $26.99 from www.fishpond.com.au.) Alexandra James PAUL Theroux caused waves in more ways than one in 1992 as he paddled his collapsible kayak around the islands of the Pacific. Tetchy at the best of times, the American travel author was at his grumpy worst.
Mind you, it wasn’t without reason. On page one of TheHappy IslesofOceania he reveals he and his wife are separating. Not a promising start. He has concerns for his health — he worries about skin cancer — is stung by jellyfish, robbed and even fears for his life.
Theroux didn’t like most of what he saw. He managed to upset the New Zealanders (Christchurch was
frightful bungalows, dirty hedges and twitching curtains’’; Dunedin cold and frugal’’). The king of Tonga—‘‘the king of cannibals and coconuts’’ — is said to have banned Theroux after granting him a rare interview. It’s a classic.
The talented Theroux was happiest with his own company, paddling solo and listening to the glorious Kiri Te Kanawa through his headphones. (* Second-hand from www.dialabook.com.au.) Barry Oliver
100 Places Every Woman Should Go Stephanie Elizondo Griest (Traveler’s Tales/Bookwise, $28.95)
The Happy Isles of Oceania Paul Theroux (Penguin, $25*)