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The Third Tower Up from the Road    by Kevin Dolgin order for
Third Tower Up from the Road
by Kevin Dolgin
Order:  USA  Can
Santa Monica Press, 2009 (2009)
* * *   Reviewed by Bob Walch

I can't remember reading a more enjoyable collection of travel stories than this compilation of the author's columns from McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Rather than offer the type of information one would find in a good travel book, Dolgin focuses on capturing the aspects of a place that make it unique.

These observations and experiences from the author's travels in Asia, Europe and the U.S. are often humorous and always entertaining. In the book's introduction, Dolgin forewarns the reader that there is 'pretty much no practical advice whatsoever in these pages'.

He then further explains his approach. 'These vignettes are impressions - I've tried much harder to portray the spirit of these places than to describe where one can get a good hot dog. So if you're looking for actual travel tips, you'll be disappointed ... However, if you're looking for a reason to travel then perhaps this book might provide what you need.'

You'll find over sixty of Dolgin's short columns in this collection. Each piece is between four and seven pages in length. Although the majority of them have appeared on McSweeney's Internet site, the vignettes of his family's trip to the American West have never been published before.

You'll get an unvarnished look and candid assessment of the places Dolgin takes you to. Here's his take on one of Las Vegas' fabled attractions, the Venetian hotel/casino: 'The Venice they have reconstructed at Las Vegas is a sanitized scaled-down facsimile of someone else's tame impression of a real, magical place, and seeing it was like seeing a nude caricature of someone you once loved, drawn with a fat red crayon.' Ouch! That's harsh but also pretty accurate!

The fact that one of these columns, The Corsican Swallowtail: Corsica, France, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize attests to the author's narrative skill. These pieces are a pleasure to read, they flow nicely and you'll quickly discover you are moving through them faster than you actually want to.

I found myself rationing myself to only five or six columns per day so as to stretch out the enjoyment of the armchair travel experience. The only slight downside to these pieces is the author's overuse of the parenthetical expression. Fortunately, after a while you become used to it and it is not so irritating.

Kevin Dolgin resides in France with his wife and family. He is a professor of marketing at the University of Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne. His travel column, Kevin Dolgin Tells You About Places You Should Go, can be found on McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

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