Do you want travel writers to tell the truth?
I have just come across this article on the BBC website about travel writers and how they sometimes embellish or make up stories for the sake of a good read, is this what you want or do you prefer the truth about a journey or place?
Personally I would prefer that they stuck to the truth, enough interesting thing usually happen on a trip that there is no need to make it up, it just requires putting into words which is where the skill of the writer comes in, but for some it seems this is not enough.
BBC News - When travel writing is off the beaten track
It's a decent article in your link and I think it is not the first time travel writers have been found to be embellishing the literal truth.
As is hinted at within the link, what is the truth anyway? That's my rhetorical question by the way.
Within here, blogs etc I would expect to find the truth and nothing but the truth, flavoured with a whole pile of opinions, biases and downright prejudice, perhaps embellished by factors such as sponsorship of one kind and another with a dash of marketing thrown in for good measure!
The same goes for Lonely Planet, Rough Guides and that genre of book.
But for travel books, I take them with a large dose of salt.
That's probably enough cliches for now.
Something to do when reading any travel book is to speculate on just how much of the writing is true; indeed just how much is first hand experience and how much came from anecdotes and bar talk (journalists do the same thing in posting reports of course, especially when there are deadlines to be met and they are short of something to say).
We are all mere humans after all.
It allways depends what you call the truth. Sometimes if you change the point of view and focus on something else sudenly the same story changes totaly. Out of this story with many people in a park could become
this much different on only about one girl ;)
But the truth "it was a nice sunny day" does not change on both pictures if you understand wat i mean. The example pictures are from google just to ilustrate what i mean....hope thats ok...
From travel writing I do expect the truth. I understand emphasizing some aspects and diminishing others, as when someone tells a funny anecdote and focuses on the enjoyable part. But it should be true; please, don't place you as the character, just tell the story someone told you if that's the case. If you are a good writer, you'll do it well and we readers will enjoy it as much as if you were there, will value your ability. I expect them to be good writers, not amazing explorers (more on that later), so if they did not live that story, no problem, just tell what you heard.
If you go for fiction, then do as Stevenson, Melville, or Jack London: live a lot of experiences yourself and then write fiction based on that. Create characters and stories. I seldom read fiction, but just finished "Adventure" by Jack London, a novel taking place in the Salomon Islands. Years ago, I read "The Cruise of the Snark", non fiction, where he tells about his intended RTW trip on a yatch (although finished prematurely), where he visits the Pacific (and the Salomon archipelago). I could feel all the influence of his very personal and real experience of the real trip in the novel, even if it is fiction (but many facts are just true). Thumbs up.
But travel writing and recurring to fiction? No, sorry.
I once read that Ryszard Kapuściński referred to something like "enhancing/boosting reality". I accept it as an ability to boost aspects that we regular people may miss, but he is able to perceive, as insightfulness, or as boosting the most interesting aspects, but not as inventing, placing you there. I've read and love almost all his books. Short after his death there was a biography claiming something similar about him, fabulating stories. Honestly, it worried me how it could change what/how I enjoyed his writings. Among the main reasons for me to visit Georgia was to visit Vardzia, after reading about it in his book Imperium: he tells about it very vividly, although he explains that only based on the info he got in a museum. So he was never there, but being such a good writer, he was able to make a great impression of the place. For these reasons and after having read contradictory opinions about the biographer I felt: this chap wants controversy, his accounts do not look objective, he just wants to make money of people like me, I'm not going to give him that chance buying his book blaming Kapuscinski.
About being explorer and writer... Mike Horn is an impressive explorer and writes very interesting books... He lived it and told it, but I don't expect him to be Steinbeck. So someone else (who also appears on the cover or 1st page) helps him with the writing and probably not only because of the language (they are originally written in French, even though he is South African), but also with the narration. And they write very well. Thumbs up as well.
(What a boring writing I'm doing) Conclusion: to me, travel writing needs truth, it is not fiction. Otherwise, go for fiction.
The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I can read enough bullshit on forums thanks.
And Tobi, the weather would not make a bit of difference with the bottom of your 2 pictures!
The 'Truth' . . . great topic for college :)
Apollinaire, Picasso's muse, wrote a story about visiting Prague, for money, he desperately needed.
Letters praised his insights and having captured the essence of Prague.
Apollinaire never visited Prague.
A photo, just by cropping, nevermind any sophisticated "photoshopping" can completely change the impression presented/taken/implied.
So does that mean it's dishonest ?
Kapucinski was amazing. Who can read the Soccer Wars and ever forget it. It does seem he took, minimally, some editorial license.
Other than SOME physical constants . . . truth seems very much a matter of perspective. So good General Relativity confirmed that. :)
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