I don’t want to sound like a snob, but I’m accustomed to travel literature. That is, really entertaining, well-written travel books like Bruce Chatwin, Paul Theroux or even Bill Bryson. I probably only read one or two such books a year, and I’m picky.
So, it was with some trepidation that I accepted a request to review What Color is Your Jockstrap, the fourth in a series of travel stories. From the publisher:
You cackled at Sand in My Bra, sent Whose Panties Are These? to friends, thumbed past the bikini beauty on The Thong Also Rises to see what other Ms-Adventures were possible.
What Color is Your Jockstrap is a bathroom reader in three senses of that phrase. First, the stories are short, lightweight and occasionally amusing. Second, the book all too often features tales of nausea and diarrhoea in foreign lands. Lastly, some of the stories are just crap. For example, Donna Dimenna has an unfunny account of sitting beside an overweight man on a long flight. Riveting stuff, eh?
In other cases, the writing simply isn’t up to snuff. Here’s an excerpt from Elliot Hester’s “Love and the Bad Empanada”:
Ronnie was a nice enough guy, but his breath smelled like shit. I’m not exaggerating. He’d walk up to you and say, “Hello,” or, “How’s it going?” and you’d turn away wondering if he’d licked a turd before putting on his uniform and driving to the airport. Pity the patient who made the mistake of asking Ronnie for assistance.
I don’t know about you, but ‘licked a turd’ is not exactly a metaphor that sings to me. That term ‘turd’ recurs in the worrying title of another story, “The Most Tenacious Turd in Nairobi”.
There are a few good pieces, but they’re usually more essay than story. For example, Seth Stevenson’s “Trying Really Hard to Like India” is a frank, entertaining appraisal of the difficulties in backpacking through that country.
So, Jockstrap isn’t for me. It might be for you if you’re into super short servings of super-light travel reading.
Completely by accident, I dropped What Colour is Your Jockstrap into the toilet. That may have been my subconcious critic at work, but we’ll never know.
Footnote: It’s just an odd coincidence that the play I wrote for the Fringe features a pink jockstrap.