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Lord Peter Views the Body
Dorothy L. Sayers
One Summer: America, 1927
Bill Bryson
The Lunatic Express: Discovering the World... via Its Most Dangerous Buses, Boats, Trains, and Planes - Carl Hoffman I enjoyed this, but I don't know that it was what I expected. I understand that he took methods of transportation that had had disasters in the past, but I was expecting at least some harrowing experiences here - instead, it was pretty much crowded, uncomfortable and unpleasant, but not much feeling of danger on the transportation itself. The real danger seemed to come from the surroundings - travelling in places with a lot of danger in the place itself, such as Kabul or Colombia.

I was also bothered by his account of the final travelling, back in the US, as compared to his travels everywhere else in the world. It seemed that he had a romanticized vision of everywhere else he had travelled, with all the people elsewhere having been wonderful to him and so on. He seemed to ignore the implications of his own repeated statements that people were entranced by the fact that he was an American, but one who travelled like they did. OK - so how is that a reasonable comparison to travel on a bus in the U.S.? Were the people in the US supposed to be entranced by the fact that here was a person who didn't need to travel poor but was doing it anyway?

And, he seemed to ignore some things he had already mentioned - for instance, his experiences on one of his boat trips when the people who had surrounded and taken care of him got off the boat and now he was surrounded by people who were not so nice to him. Kinda undercuts his thesis that everyone everywhere else in the world was so nice to him.

He made a point of the unpleasantness of the bus driver in the U.S. - but since he didn't speak the language in most of the other places he went, how does he know what they were saying to him? Finally, he made a big point of how his bus broken down in Maryland, so here was the only place in the world that he didn't make it to his destination - well, they said that there would be a replacement bus coming at some point, not that everyone was stranded. And there were plenty of other places in his travels where the bus/train/whatever didn't go when he expected it to or arrive when he expected it to - so what, really, is the difference?

If you read this just as a travel book, on what it's like to travel in the most crowded and unpleasant ways possible, it's really interesting. If you pay too much attention to his philosophical conclusions, tho, it's a little annoying - seems that he romanticized everywhere else he went, when comparing it to the US, and that he was ignoring some of the experiences elsewhere and generalizing on very small samples.