Welcome to the worlds of Matthew Stevenson - author, writer, essayist
"Sometimes at book readings I am asked which are my favorite books in this collection. That’s like being asked, 'Who is your favorite child?' But here is a short list of my travel likes and dislikes. I have always enjoyed traveling in the Pacific. I like its vastness, the small airports, and the thatched-roof guesthouses. I love Russian trains, especially those that run for mile after monotonous mile across the steppe or through prehistoric pine forests. I feel like I am visiting passages from Tolstoy.
"I like most of the countries where they play baseball: hence the U.S., Japan, Korea, and much of the Caribbean. In Europe I am drawn to the East, especially the Balkans and Greece. I would rather go to Montenegro than the Riviera, and I would rather spend the weekend in Transylvania than Biarritz. I love ending any day at the beach. I find reading books on airplanes a great pleasure, and somewhere in my library is a book for every flight I have taken.
"As for my dislikes, I grow grumpy to the point of mournful whenever I am stuck on a package tour, even if it just for the day. I hate getting on and off tour buses, I hate the singsong patter of guides, and I refuse to follow anyone carrying a hat on top of an umbrella. Nor, as my family will attest, am I prone to expensive hotels or resorts.
"I loathe sleeping in a large bed with about ten pillows or getting up at 3 AM to wrestle with the automatic cooling system. The great windows have screens. Nor do I think anyone should have to watch television while on a trip, especially CNN or those midnight ads for machines that strengthen your thigh muscles.
"While I like good food as much as anyone, I confess I don’t like paying for it. Usually when handed some oversized menu in a fancy restaurant I think how many books I could buy instead of ordering the Dover sole. I detest the automobile and car travel in general, especially when it involves an interstate highway. By disposition, I am hostile to taxi drivers (meters make me nervous). I count days outside of cars as small victories, and love it when trips involve ferries, trains, and bicycles."
I would rather travel the world with Matthew Stevenson more than anyone else I know.
Simon Winchester, best-selling author
Matthew Stevenson is a fine writer, and these essays are a joy to read.
Lewis Lapham, editor and founder, Lapham's Quarterly