Marco Polo Didn’t Go There – Book Review

marco_polo_rolf_coverAttending the LA Travel and Adventure show last month I stopped by to see some of the books they were selling.  My eyes were drawn to the half price Lonely Planet books but unfortunately for me, I had just purchased my guidebook for Costa Rica and didn’t have any other trips on the agenda at the moment.

Then I noticed and picked up Rolf Potts’ Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer. I am ashamed to admit I had never heard of Potts before nor had I read any of his stories.  The stories in the book sounded good though so I went ahead and purchased a copy.

Essentially a collection of Potts’ stories for various websites and glossy print magazines, Marco Polo Didn’t Go There turned out to be one of my best impulse book purchases ever.  You probably could skip buying the book and find them all archived online, but then you would miss out on the great commentary Potts adds at the end of each story.  These commentaries give more information about the characters, events or even about his state of mind when experiencing or writing the story.  With no need to please a magazine editor or make sure a story captures the reader, they also act as a place where Potts can be more honest than in the original story.

Who this book will really interest ,though, is the aspiring travel writer, such as myself.  Potts shares not just the details of the experience, but why he included certain elements, excluded specific characters or exaggerated various details.  He shares his opinion on what made the story work, and will be honest about what didnt’ work.  Potts also talks about the many styles and forms of travel writing and points out why he chose to use various techniques.

Whether you are a writer or not, you will be engaged in his stories, feeling as if you know the characters. Not because of vivid, adjective heavy descriptions, but because most of stories revolve around personal interactions that you’ve certainly experienced in one form or another.

This is the first book I have read with the author’s commentary after each chapter and it was a welcomed change.  I truly enjoyed getting in to his head and understanding the why and how of his stories.

Marco Polo Didn’t Go There: Stories and Revelations from One Decade as a Postmodern Travel Writer is available on Amazon.com at a discounted price.

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Comments

  1. Ram says:

    Hi Jeffrey,

    I read this book last year (2008) and liked it for exactly the same reason you mention – the extras at the end of each chapter.

    In fact, I’d read many of the articles before online, but re-reading them as a collection was a great pleasure. This book made it to my list of top ten travel books read in 2007 and 2008.

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