Why travel to Australia on vacation, halfway around the world, when you can just read a book about it?
Or that is how I justify it to myself.
Lost in Rooville, by Ray Blackston, showed great promise in my armchair journey. A cute, light green cover with the kangaroo warning sign and a kangaroo jumping on top of a car in the background. It looked light and easy, which was just what I was after. I found myself wading through forty pages of two guys talking about getting engaged to their girlfriends with the enthusiasm I would expect to see from two guys talking about getting laid, but I knew kangaroos were coming, so I hung in there. The two couples split up to explore the Outback separately, and the book picks up. One couple gets lost, and as they run out of water and wonder if they will be found in time, they think about having sex. But they don’t, because their values are too strong.
Hold on. This is a grown couple and they haven’t had sex yet? What’s going on here? It all comes back to me. The passing reference to praying for help. The woman has been working with a mission. Is this... Christian fiction?
I flip ahead, and while the author must have contained himself for the first part of the book, suddenly the God, praying, and minister references are all over the place. I have no problem with the existence of the genre, and this book was probably a decent expression of Christian values in a new setting. But hey, warn me. You don’t play rap on a country music station; you don’t slap a chick-lit-ish cover on a book of Christian fiction. It’s just wrong.
I had to clear my head, and went for an old favorite, One for the Road: An Outback Adventure, by Tony Horwitz. Tony is an American journalist who gets the idea to cross the outback by hitchhiking. He meets lots of crazy characters, crosses a landscape similar to the moon, and sees his first kangaroo after the driver runs into it. This is the Australia adventure about the people, not the tourist attractions, and it is fascinating and funny.
But, my old favorite wasn’t there, so I decided to try Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country. I am halfway through it, and it is good but not great. He talks a lot about various tourist attractions or cities that he assumes we have a working knowledge of. But I don’t, and wish that there were a few pictures and maps to help me follow his descriptions. His books incorporate more history and facts and actual information. It’s a little too much work for me. I just wanted the funny or interesting stories and some clever writing.
Because, face it, I’m on vacation.