Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Future Of Travel Writing?

Today, Worldhum's Michael Yessis published an interview with Rolf Potts that's one of the more thoughtful commentaries about the travel writing industry I've read this year.

Here's the final question:


Now that you’ve looked back, where do you see travel writing headed in the next decade?


In the business sense, I have no clue where travel writing is headed—though if I did, I could make a fortune as a media consultant. Consumer travel writing is paired quite closely with the travel industry, and thus is likely to wind up wherever the most readers are tuning in—be it websites, or magazines, or whatever media technology is invented next week. Literary travel writing will continue to appear wherever it is championed by individual editors and publishers, and its more specialized readership will follow accordingly.

In artistic terms, I think travel writing will always be the product of its age. As recently as one hundred years ago, for example, travel writing was characterized by detailed cultural and topographical descriptions. In an age of mass information, description is no longer enough; writers need to make connections and actively interpret the texture of places that can retain their distinct character even as they change rapidly. This applies to American flyover country as much as it does Yemen or Botswana.

It’s been said that travel literature was crucial to the evolution of the modern novel, that Victorian Romanticism emerged from a 19th-century travel boom that created a fascination with faraway places. I’d like to think that travel literature in coming decades will champion a kind of Postmodern Realism—a measured-yet-optimistic sensibility that cuts through the fantasies of tourism and the alarmist hue of international news reporting to leave us with something essentially human and true about the rest of the world.


Michael and Rolf are two of the nicest guys in the travel writing world.

Full interview is here.

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