Recommendation: A collection of travel stories for academics and lovers of erudite language only. You’ll get a glimpse into some of the places the author has traveled, but what is most visible is Moon’s high opinion of himself. I caution you, there be rants ahead.
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I’m going to get this out of the way from the beginning; arrogance is about my least favorite quality in a person and is definitely my least favorite quality in a person’s writing. Mr. Heat-Moon (no, that’s not his real name) has arrogance in spades. If he’s not purposefully using large words that will send you to a dictionary, then he’s providing an anecdote about how he outsmarted some random stranger he met in passing, or whining about the restraints his editors have put on his singular genius throughout the years. Woe to be a successful author making a living by travelling the world!
I think my frustration was piqued early on by Moon’s attempt to reason out his use of rare words. He tells us that he uses such a large vocabulary because he has respect for our (his readers) intelligence. Nobody else in book or magazine publishing respects you! They think you’re dumb! But not Moon! He knows you’re smart! And that’s why he uses such unnecessarily complicated turns of phrase! I could not have been more turned off by this absurd, manipulative reasoning. If you respect a group of people then you should show it in the ideas you present, not by assuming they have been introduced to the same subset of words as you. There’s hundreds of thousands of words in the English language. I don’t know them all. I don’t even want to know them all. The time lost would be nowhere near equivalent to the knowledge gained. So, no, I don’t know what prolegomenon (which, by the way, WordPress spell check doesn’t believe is a word), antipodes, or fulminating missives mean. And the constant reoccurrence of these types of words won’t send me to a dictionary. If you write a paragraph with a couple words I don’t know, then I might take the energy to look them up. But if each sentence in the paragraph has a couple words I don’t know, then I’ve simply missed your entire point and I’m not about to spend five minutes looking up words to piece together some fragment of an idea just because you wanted people to think you were smart when you wrote it.
Call me Ranty McRanterson.
Anyways, if you like travel books and can get past Moon’s elitist style (obviously I could not) then this will probably be an enjoyable book. Moon has been to a lot of different cities, countries, continents, and planets (maybe not planets), so he has a rather extraordinary range of experiences to write about. The format didn’t have any sense of cohesion that was noticeable to me (probably because I just don’t have the intelligence to understand it), but piece by piece the articles are solid. There’s sure to be better travel books around written by people who think themselves fallible, but maybe an overinflated ego is exactly what you’re looking for in a book?