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The Decline of Literary Travel Writing

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A recent ‘bee in my bonnet’ at present is the unremarked demise of the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award – the only literary bastion defending the literary quality of the literary travel book. This particular genre is experiencing a terribly difficult period just now. Unless there are large quantities of olives in the landscape or readers are easily able to travel and identify with the destination chosen by the author, publishers seem to show marginal interest. One used to read travel literature because one was not easily able to reach the author’s destination and to learn something of foreign cultures.

My own area of exploration is the South Pacific. Little of any consequence outside the world of anthropology has been published on these fascinating Oceanic cultures for years. One can scarcely credit now the impact that the publication of Captain Cook’s Journals had at the time. Actually if Captain Cook did not visit it, a Pacific Island and its culture is completely off the European mind…