Book Reviews

in Journeys
Author:
John Bodinger de UriarteSusquehanna University, Pennsylvania

Search for other papers by John Bodinger de Uriarte in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
,
Paula Mota SantosFernando Pessoa University, Portugal

Search for other papers by Paula Mota Santos in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close
, and
Song YunLingnan University, Hong Kong

Search for other papers by Song Yun in
Current site
Google Scholar
PubMed
Close

Randy Malamud, The Importance of Elsewhere: The Globalist Humanist Tourist. Chicago/Intellect, The University of Chicago Press, 2018, vii +236 pp., ISBN-13: 978-1783208746, $29.50 (paperback).

Mark Rice, Making Machu Picchu: The Politics of Tourism in Twentieth Century Peru (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2018), xvi +253 pp., ISBN 978-1-4696-4353-3, $28.75 (paperback).

Jeffrey Mather, Twentieth-Century Literary Encounters in China: Modernism, Travel, and Form (New York: Routledge, 2020), ix +182 pp., ISBN 978-1-03-208815-0, US $48.95 (paperback).

Randy Malamud, The Importance of Elsewhere: The Globalist Humanist Tourist. Chicago/Intellect, The University of Chicago Press, 2018, vii +236 pp., ISBN-13: 978-1783208746, $29.50 (paperback).

The Importance of Elsewhere is an ambitious book. At times a theoretical engagement with tourism and traveling, an extended exegesis on the wielding of a humanist perspective, or a set of reflective entries on an array of international conferences and other sites far afield, it is hard to pin down exactly which fields it contributes to most successfully. The volume is divided into two parts—the first six chapters frame some of the book's main theoretical considerations, while the remaining fifteen are a series of short essays and extended vignettes based on trips to several interesting international sites, mostly to attend unusual conferences (on Monty Python, Boredom, or Remoteness, for example), which Randy Malamud refers to as the opposite of “mainstream cookie-cutter conferences where the usual suspects roll out the usual rigamarole” (191). The volume offers interesting considerations of travel, the challenges of tourism—for both a scholar of tourism and a tourist—and the practice of travel writing.

It would have been helpful to provide clear definitions of key terms early on, however, especially the three elements of the book's subtitle: globalism, humanism, and tourism. Globalism suggests a world connected through networks—economic, geopolitical, ideological, for example—that stretch across multinational borders. Humanism is literary learning as an expression of a devotion to the humanities. In Malamud's terms, globalism is “colossal,” while humanism is “intimate.” Once he establishes these oppositions, he asserts his identity as a “globalist humanist.” Tourism seems to be a knottier definition throughout, especially as projected against the travel essays that comprise the majority of the book's offerings. Tourism is distinguished by its mass character and its mass “gazing” (Urry, The Tourist Gaze, 2011). Travel, on the other hand, has an individual character (see also Boorstin, The Image, 2013). In Chapter 1—“Home and Away”—Malamud first claims to be a traveler, then a tourist, then an anti-tourist, an untourist, and finally a post-tourist (13). He ultimately locates himself “importantly, elsewhere—at the end of this journey, by the end of the book—as a traveler and a travel writer. … I am a traveling humanist” (14–15). In Chapter 3, “Travel v Tourism,” he discusses the rarified perspective of the traveler, and his own travel as connected to conferences and “to get[ting] [his] country-counts as high as possible” (100), although he self-identifies as a tourist in the book's title. By the end of the chapter, he offers the following: “Traveling tourists or touring travelers? I am afraid I have arrived at the terminus of this chapter's journey with yet another bout of fuzzy imprecision, as the terms that at first seemed so antithetical appear to have melted into each other” (46). If this is indeed the case, I wonder why we were invited on the journey to begin with.

It is unclear how Malamud understands his positionality across his different related experiences—is he a travel writer? A traveling English professor, and thus one of the practitioners of the humanities? A scholar able to attend a variety of conferences in out-of-the-way (topically and spatially) sites? Like the protagonist in Andrew Sean Greer's Less (2018), Malamud seems fortunate in connecting conference opportunities to international travel. As a collection of essays on such travel, it is unclear what unites the volume. The first third is marked by an over-display of erudition, the last two thirds by disjuncture, and all three are united primarily through the author's claiming center stage: “I celebrate myself, and sing myself, and theorize myself” (6). Travel writing depends on relating the reflective perspective of the traveler (here the tourist, or maybe not); as such, the all-seeing “I” may be an essential component. But the claim to globalist humanism might benefit from offering a broader (perhaps more globalist) set of comparative thoughts or thinking.

Malamud identifies his approach as “autotheoretical: autobiographical writing that exceeds the boundaries of the personal” (6). We see him enacting the role of the flaneur (as he self-identifies), but we see less of the kind of critique that the figure of the flaneur makes possible, at least as offered by Walter Benjamin, whom he cites. Additionally, the book would have benefited from some more complicated engagement with the idea of “culture”—this may have brought Malamud closer to thinking carefully about his initial question about what travel means. (As a cultural anthropologist, I admit that we may not have quite figured it out either, but the question is worth more careful pursuit.) Malamud floats on the surface of the places he visits and tours, never fully identifying the tourist imaginary work going on in such places, or his own role in perpetuating such work. It is difficult to see beyond the narrator and his own experience.

I am glad that he's overcome his fear of flying (see Chapter 4,“Fear of Flying”), but I find myself less interested in the steps he is completing toward his quest to travel a million miles with Delta Airlines. Indeed, it reminds me of Claude Levi-Strauss's admonition in the beginning of Tristes Tropiques: “Mere mileage is the thing . … Platitudes take shape as revelations once the audience is assured that the speaker has sanctified them by travelling to the other side of the globe” (1961: 18). Malamud suggests that he “[began] this voyage with the haughty premise that my literary acumen led me to select the better side of every binary: the more interesting, more valuable, more authentic, more culturally sensitive and productive trip” (35). It is an ambitious set of goals.

There are definitely moments in the book that stand out for their successes. For example, in Chapter 5, “Travel Reading: Reading Travel,” he seems much on home ground, bobbing and weaving, spinning allusions and connections among a wide variety of interventions between place and literary voice or reference, “to open up literary worlds to my students: imaginative worlds, the world of the texts” (62). And I cannot argue with what he sees as “the ultimate value of travel: of going elsewhere, where the traveler notices, and learns, and integrates a set of experiences and sensibilities that somehow make him a better-adapted and more functional sociocultural actor upon his return” (76), or with the idea that “we must redouble our efforts to appreciate and sustain the habits of multiculturalism, openness, [and] connectedness” (86).

While the personal accounts of traveling, attending various symposia and film festivals, and visiting historic sites necessarily include the perspective of the seeing self, the “I” of Malamud's narrative often crowds for center stage, draped in the mantle of an underdefined globalist humanist tourist perspective. In this scenario, the “humanist” is unsullied, battling against the forces of evil (which mostly seem to be the commercialization of experience). On the penultimate page, Malamud identifies the book's work as “travel studies” and discusses the relationship between travel brochure jargon (on the Faroe Islands) and what he hopes to find once he travels there: “I am pretty sure what I will actually find will be even more spectacular than [the] description (if only because the globalist humanist tourist's discourse outshines that of travel agencies), but the clichés alone are enough to get me there” (212). We'll need to take his word for it. While the book asks, “What does travel mean?” (5), it doesn't get us to an answer. We see what some specific travels have posed as particular challenges (and challenges overcome) for Malamud, but not a wider frame or analysis for the question raised.

John Bodinger de Uriarte

Susquehanna University

Mark Rice, Making Machu Picchu: The Politics of Tourism in Twentieth Century Peru (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2018), xvi +253 pp., ISBN 978-1-4696-4353-3, $28.75 (paperback).

Historian Mark Rice offers readers a chronological examination of the development of Machu Picchu, from Hiram Bingham's early-twentieth-century “discovery” to its status as a booming twenty-first-century tourist site. Arguing that Machu Picchu's tourism was, from the beginning, oriented toward an international market (13), the author centers his study primarily on the foreign tourist at the expense of considering domestic and indigenous travelers.

The book is organized in five chronological chapters titled according to what the author considers to be the main descriptor of the period at hand: respectively, “Making the Modern Destination”; “Good Neighbors, Tourism and Nationalism”; “Disaster Destinations”; “The Junta and the Jipis”; and “Between Maoists and Millionaires,” as well as an epilogue, “The Synthesis of All Things Peruvian.” These chapters present what Rice (14) identifies as the three main periods of travel and tourism in Cusco: when tourism served the interests of cultural politics to validate Cusco's modernity and indigenismo folklore (Chapters 1 and 2); when tourism, although still seen as a modernizing force, was being harnessed by local and national forces as a tool for much-needed economic development (Chapters 3 and 4); and when Machu Picchu emerges as a key travel destination and symbol at a time when control over tourism is increasingly in the hands of private international agents (Chapter 5 and the Epilogue). At the end of each of the five chapters, Rice produces a Conclusion in which the reader can find an overall comment on the times and events described in the respective chapter.

Various sets of tensions seem to be recurrent themes woven throughout the book, including those between the coastal capital Lima and the Andean hinterland and its main city, Cusco; between indigenismo and modernity (at least up to the point at which indigenismo actually becomes part of modernity and is used to represent Peruvian-ness on the international stage, through heritage tourism and in it through Machu Picchu); between the upper class (be it Limeña or Cusqueña) and the masses of campesinos (indigenas); between the nation and its neighbors; between traditional Peruvian society and foreign-influenced lifestyles; between tourism development and heritage conservation; and between state-led and private, neoliberal tourism development projects.

Rice displays an impressive, in-depth knowledge of the site's entanglement with local, regional, and national politics. He also delves into the international context, bringing to light the palpable weight of Pan-American nationalisms, the influence of the United States, and the role of globalized countercultural movements (namely hippie and backpacker tourism) on the construction of Machu Picchu's imaginaries. Rice's book includes abundant references to institutions, developmental programs, major stakeholders (local, national, and international), the dates and places of occurrences, and actual words spoken or written by men (and it is only men) of importance in the construction of Machu Picchu as a modern tourist Mecca. The student, researcher, or interested reader seeking factual information on Machu Picchu's modern history is superbly served by this book, and will gain a robust understanding of how the trials and tribulations of modern Machu Picchu's growth mirrored those of the modern Peruvian nation state.

Although an example of formidable historical research, the book may leave those readers more versed in tourism as social practice wanting more. According to the author, the book's “narrative … traces the development of tourism at Machu Picchu … [a process that] often reflected local responses to national and global change. This book tracks these changes to gain a broader understanding of tourism, Machu Picchu, and their influence on Peruvian national identity” (14). If the first sentence's goals are undoubtedly accomplished, the second falls a bit short. Rice quotes, albeit in passing, some of the major names in the study of tourism and its entanglements with issues of social identity, such as Valene Smith, Dean MacCannell, Jean and John Comaroff, Mary-Louise Pratt, and John Urry, but does so only briefly and without allowing for these authors and their work to fully illuminate the dynamics at play.

This book is undoubtedly a solid contribution to the literature on the history of Machu Picchu, and to tourism studies in general. Making Machu Picchu presents a laudable case study of tourism development, as the themes that are presented in each of the five chapters reflect well the trials and tribulations of many (post-)colonial states embracing tourism and the creation of heritage as a means of development and self-affirmation on the global stage. Such commonality makes Rice's book, with its exemplary and fine-grained archival historical research, a fundamental work for those who study any aspect of Andean tourism or of tourism policies at large.

Paula Mota Santos

Fernando Pessoa University (Portugal)

Jeffrey Mather, Twentieth-Century Literary Encounters in China: Modernism, Travel, and Form (New York: Routledge, 2020), ix +182 pp., ISBN 978-1-03-208815-0, US $48.95 (paperback).

Jeffrey Mather's Twentieth-Century Literary Encounters in China argues that much of the symbolic characterization of China as the lazy, obstructive, and monotonous Other has been inherited from twentieth-century literature, and that it is necessary to look at the history of writing to understand the mediation and negotiation behind literary engagement with the Middle Kingdom. Situating the ancient country as the center of modernist encounter, Mather examines a wide range of Anglo-American travel texts about China—including travel journals, novels, autobiographies, and poems—within the span of the country's tumultuous Republican Period (1912–1949). Drawing from abundant archival sources and reflecting on the research of Edward Säid, Robert Bickers, James Hevia, Nicholas Clifford, Susan Thurin, and Julia Kuehn, the author attentively analyzes a range of writers—including a botanist (Frank Kington-Ward), a horticulturist (Reginald Farrer), a journalist (Emily Hahn), a novelist (Han Suyin), an editor (Harriet Monroe), and a poet (Ezra Pound)—in terms of their ambivalent construction of social space, sensitive contact with the Oriental Other, and uncertain strategies for negotiating cross-cultural interactions. Through the understanding of these imperfect travel writings from an earlier era, Mather grounds the importance of travel experience and cosmopolitan ethics in literary interferences in the present geopolitical context.

Following a chronological layout, the book unfolds in three parts: “Borderlands” (approaching the works of Kington-Ward and Farrer), “Cosmopolitan Performances” (Hahn and Han), and “Mobile Poetics” (Monroe and Pound). In Part I, Mather first critiques Kington-Ward's feminization of China as a typical trope that also appears in many other contemporary travel narratives. However, he then further contends that Kington-Ward's writing, especially his The Land of the Blue Poppy, reveals a “deep mapping” ideology that enables the botanist to live with the Eastern Other while searching for selfhood (30–34). One can apparently see that in Kington-Ward's slow botanical journeys, a different attitude toward time was shaped thanks to his deep engagement with the local environment. Kington-Ward's unconsciousness toward time, argues Mather, disrupts the traditional Western temporal prejudice against Eastern cultures, and therefore ambivalently destabilizes the cult of modernity.

Turning to the second writer in this section, Reginald Farrer, the author starts by interpreting the renowned horticulturist's transculturation attempts in his gardening books. Criticizing shallow Victorian garden design, Farrer's artistic, rather than horticulturist, standpoint, coupled with his Buddhist orientation, entails an exemplary undertaking in bringing China to the UK (49–50). Moreover, Farrer's femininity in his novels On the Eaves of the World and Rainbow Bridge leads Mather to uncover a prevalent stylistic connection to the novels of Jane Austen. Being a possibly homosexual man from a wealthy family, Farrer, with his counter-masculine writing, represents an egalitarian eye when he looks at the landscapes of a country that has been heavily feminized in Western literature.

The next part of the book, “Cosmopolitan Performances,” highlights two female writers: Emily Hahn and Han Suyin. The former had an apparent affiliation with the Kuomintang (the governing party of China at the time), and after some romantic water-testing works wrote her most memorable book, The Soong Sisters (1941). Mather points out that, although very well received in the West, the work was greatly censored by the Soongs and omitted many wrongdoings conducted by the Chiang Kai-shek government. Nevertheless, Hahn's contribution to the development of women's writing was unappreciated over the years. In Jill, Hahn argues that the image of the prostitute can be perceived positively for her economic agency and freedom, but carries a negative moral burden at the same time. Hahn's ambivalence in approaching multiple genres, contends Mather, “can be viewed as a strategy of writing within historically defined and patriarchal notions of journalistic and historical discourse, and of clearing space for women as (travel) writers” (85).

Compared to Hahn, Han Suyin's early travel writing is more critical in its social and political engagement. In Destination Chungking, Han takes advantage of her medical training in childbirth to reflect a nationalistic desire for a “clean” birth of China. Mather claims that Han's focus on hygiene reflects her patriotic wartime mentality toward the injurious Japanese, as well as her call for a racial rejuvenation that was desperately needed in the chaotic country. After the Chinese Civil War, Han's work A Many Splendored Thing moves toward a biopolitical and postcolonial allegory in which communist fervor and sexual passion are mixed. Mather highlights Han's importance as a lifelong exile and argues that “Han's double vision, the sense of a hybrid self, is one that searches inward for meaning, but also gazes in two directions through moments in time” (116).

The poetics of travel and ethnography take center stage in the book's final part. In Harriet Monroe and Ezra Pound's poetry, there is an aesthetic entanglement and circulation between China and the West. In Monroe's case, Mather interestingly points out that the editor's “Open Door” poetic slogan coincided with US Secretary of State John Hay's colonial “Open Door Policy.” While the former welcomed younger poets rather than the big names, the latter implies greed and economic inequity. But somehow, Monroe does not escape her political context, and, in her memoir A Poet's Life, carries a Kiplingesque responsibility over China as well. What should be noticed in Monroe's Chinese travels, however, is that she worries that China might lose its distinctiveness to the imperial influence of the West, and tries to counter such imperialistic and masculine approaches to China (127). Mather also discovers that after Monroe's second visit to China in 1934, the Chinese poems she selected for her magazine seemed strongly influenced by Whitman and modern Western poetics. Ironically, while the Chinese poets were trying to discard their ancient literary forms, their American counterparts like Ezra Pound were seeking new elements from traditional Chinese art (134). This reveals again the cyclical movement in writing as a hybrid form.

Pound is Mather's final stop in the book. As the only writer in this book who never set foot on China's soil, Pound's poetic interests lie merely in his literary and intertextual travels through sinologists like Ernest Fenellosa and Joseph Rock. Although his poetry started the China spree in the West, Pound relies too much on the troubling social Darwinist logic of Joseph Rock's ethnography and reveals his fascist utopian ideology, which led to the inevitable failure of his Cantos. Despite this negative ethnographic inflection, Mather contends that Pound's poetic exploration inspires new literary insights, against the fixated assumptions of ethnography and the generalization of any already-formed theory.

Twentieth-Century Literary Encounters in China is an important and insightful contribution to the field of travel writing studies. Mather's botanical and China-centered perspectives prove strongly persuasive in their engagement with versatile forms of travel narrative. Each of the book's three focuses, namely modernism, travel, and form, as indicated in the book's subtitle, is amply facilitated by the author's detailed elaboration. However, as he acknowledges in his introduction, Mather leaves out a number of influential writers who were active in China's Republican Period (namely W. H. Auden, Pearl S. Buck, Lin Yutang, William Empson, and Langston Hughes) because of their apparent irrelevance to the topic of modernity and travel, or because there are already some existing studies in the field. And in his discussion of Ezra Pound, Mather seems to take too pessimistic a tone in terms of Pound's attempt at textual circulation between East and West. Having said that, however, readers of Twentieth-Century Literary Encounters in China will certainly benefit from Mather's encyclopedic detailing of China and its related literature, which could not be covered in its entirety in this review. The book is an adept work of scholarship that contributes well to the developing field of travel writing studies.

SONG Yun

Lingnan University (Hong Kong)

  • Collapse
  • Expand

Journeys

The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 208 181 0
Full Text Views 58 52 7
PDF Downloads 43 36 0