This collection of 19 essays from Mason, former poet laureate of Colorado, is an excellent contribution to the genres of both literary criticism and travel writing. Mason expertly weaves the stories of great writers and places both ancient and new together into an imaginative literary odyssey. The book is divided into three sections on the respective themes of postcolonial places, writers in exile, and eccentric Americans. Mason’s writing rises to the level that he describes great travel writers as achieving, that “we don’t read these writers for tips on hotels and restaurants, but for literary experience, for enlargement of soul, and for pleasure.” He explores the Mediterranean and American West, the writerly connections between these places, and how voices, like places, “move through us as we move through them.” In the title essay, he ties together Venice and Idaho, showing that the Italian city and U.S. state have both Ezra Pound and Ernest Hemingway in common. Throughout, Mason reminds the reader that travel writing should not be reduced to a lesser genre, and, from Herodotus to W.H. Auden, has been an important literary tradition that enables us to explore the world through reading. This special collection leaves readers with a sense of wanderlust and a refreshing new lens through which to view literature and travel.
Read the full review.