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Falling Off The Map: Some Lonely Places Of The World (1994)

Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World (1994)
3.82 of 5 Votes: 2
0679746129 (ISBN13: 9780679746126)
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Falling Off The Map: Some Lonely Plac...
Falling Off The Map: Some Lonely Places Of The World (1994)

About book: Pico Iyer might be the most difficult contemporary writer to summarize or review. a product of Eton, Oxford (Double First Class degree) and Harvard, he might very well have a 180 I.Q. one is intimidated by his intellect and academic training. Time Magazine. 10 cover stories. anything you write about him, aren't you merely setting yourself up for a devastating cross-interrogation?as I wrote in my first review of his work, a noticeable feature of his work is the continual and continuing innocence of outlook. Iyer might not quite be Pangloss and he's certainly no next-door Ned Flanders, but it's certainly fair to say that in his gently flowing prose there's a continual and subtle call to better oneself and seek the path of gentleness and humanity. Thoreau and Emerson inform his work; so do Graham Greene and Hermann Hesse. we can see the better-(wo)man that humanity can achieve. why, wonders Iyer, do we not simply take that step to become Her/Him?I'm not sure that Iyer, if subject to a brutal and relentless physical assault in a dark alley would necessarily fight back. if a next-door neighbor began spying and harassing him, chasing him from market to workplace to friend's house, would Iyer ever raise a fist or buy a high-powered weapon? I don't know. and to that degree, at least 20-30% of humanity--whether African, European, American, Australian or whatever, can and will never understand Iyer. and doesn't Iyer's own photograph show the passage of time on a gentle-person's philosophy? does not Iyer keep smiling at a world that is slightly more corrupt than the person inside?in any case, this turns into digression...okay, let's return to the book....FALLING OFF THE MAP is a series of restless and flowing travel stories from some of the places that are less traveled in the world. from Iceland to Australian, Bhutan to Paraguay, Iyer goes to where the package tourist doesn't, he specifically avoids London-Paris-Istanbul-Rio-Tokyo-Shanghai because there are the tourist touchstones of the globe, and if he is unlike Kevin Sites in that he is not seeking poverty, devastation, and war, nevertheless the passage to less-developed areas does awaken a humanist's appreciation of the complexities of global relations. perhaps to some degree western prosperity depends on broken regions, and perhaps Australia and Iceland have their own hidden darker sides. but Iyer does not dally. he does not question whether the world is necessarily twisted. it's off to the next destination. it's a gentle reference to the wife who awaits at home. it's a quiet introspection into the nature of man without passage oneself into the heart of darkness himself.I can't offer absolute accolades to somebody caught up in the lace-and-silver quasi-Victorian worldview, who looks at a devastated drug-jungle and hears bird songs, who needs to call his wife for two hours even though his restless feet are taking him to cuba, who chides the provincialism of some small and forgotten western backwater without wondering whether those people feel they are trapped there. the fact of the matter is that your next-door neighbor, the one with a gentle and daily smile who keeps to himself might be keeping three prisoners in an underground cell he's dug out himself. this is reality, Pico! I wish we could all study at Oxford!

That Pico Iyer - how is possible to be so erudite and entertaining as he is? What a great idea, to group a bunch of places as disparate as Iceland and Australia together and reveal their commonality as Lonely Places - not so much places where people might be lonely as places that have "fallen off the map", or fallen out of time - Cuba is a particularly good example of this being once or twice or thrice removed from the Westernized, globalized, relentlessly forward-looking mainstream way of life that has laminated the globe in recent decades. Not all of the places appeal to nostalgia-lovers - on North Korea, for instance, I think I'll pass; but how funny Pico Iyer makes his stay there: "People say that Pyongyang is a dreary city, but i found no shortage of diversions there: I was taken to the subway stations[...:], and to the Thermal Power Station; to the Korean Revolutionary Museum, and to a performance by the Korean people's Army circus (whose artists wielded guns while doing handstands and chanted slogans while revolving in midair)."I can't always handle the armchair travel books about glorious Tuscan villas because it makes me too unhappy not to be able to up and leave right away; but Pico Iyer's writings let me think and understand more about the world without feeling too envious about it: pure delight.
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A fun and entertaining view on some of the more unique places on Earth. A bit outdated now of course, but still an interesting look at the atmosphere in a few remote areas 25 years ago, including Iceland. Surprisingly I quite liked his account of my home country, I think he pretty much nailed it. Again, some of the information is outdated, but I feel that he quite captures the spirit of Iceland and Icelanders in a way that I could not have done myself. Besides from Iceland I enjoyed the chapters on Bhutan and Cuba the most. What's missing from this book is a chapter on an African country, a Middle Eastern country and maybe an Eastern European country, for a bit more diversity.
Ricardo Ribeiro
Until I got to Paraguay chapter I was thinking about two stars. The book is dated and the author has a distant approach to the places and specially to the people. Besides, the writing style is not consistent, with some pleasant chapters - like Cuba - and some not so good, like Bhutan.But the I got to the Paraguay's chapter and I found it outrageous. Note well, I am not connected in absolutely no way with that country, but the malice with which the author writes about it is not accetable. Disgusting. Feels like he was paid by someone to ruin the country's image. It's just too bad and poisonous to be real and genuine.
Great book by Pico Iyer, especially if you consider how little some of those placed have changed. Iceland is still a remarkable remote place, Cuba is largely unchanged despite the recent trends towards more openness, North Korea is what is has been for decades, and Argentina - as always - hops from one economic downturn to another. His descriptions of the places he saw in the late 1980s and early 1990s are apt, vivid and on more than a few cases even original (surprising given how much is written about many of those places). The story on Paraguay is a grand read if one considers the decades of isolation it used to be in.
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