“Celebration, U.S.A.” A Book Review

What do you get when you take two journalists, one of them an ace investigative reporter for The New York Times, and plunk them down for a year or two in Celebration, Florida, Disney’s much-ballyhooed planned community, where they and their two kids get to observe, participate in, and (of course) report on the behind-the-scenes comings and goings of the citizenry of this carefully groomed suburban Utopia?

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“A Year in the Merde”, A Book Review

A Rauncy Riposte to “A Year in Provence”

Stephen Clarke’s A Year in the Merde chronicles the misadventures of a young British marketing man hired to help a French company launch a chain of Brit-themed tea shops. He experiences French charm, French inefficiency, sublime French food, slimy French corruption and political intrigue, a seemingly endless series of strikes, and more sex than he can shake his weakened British stick at.

At first blush it seems to be yet another of those memoirs (Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, preeminent among them) that allow the reader the vicarious pleasure of living among the unfailingly charming, but inevitably infuriating French. In fact, the cover makes a subtle design nod to the cover of Mayle’s megahit.

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“Gringos In Paradise”, A Book Review

Gringos In Paradise

When I was young, “The People’s Guide To Mexico” was my favorite book about Mexico. Now that I am (ahem) older, Barry Golson’s engaging memoir “Gringos in Paradise” is pushing it aside on my shelf of favorites.

This is a supremely engaging account that succeeds on two levels. First, it will satisfy the armchair traveler’s desire for vicarious pleasure. I was reminded more than once of “A Year in Provence” and, indeed, Golson’s book has some of the same sure-fire elements — “colorful” locals and quirky tradesmen, shrewdly observed and nicely evoked takes on the local folkways and manners, and an engaging cast of supporting expats.

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“Drive I-95″, A Book Review

Periodically, I load up my car and head South on an 1,100-mile trip to Orlando, where I write guidebooks. I explain this odd behavior to myself in a number of ways: It’s a welcome break from the constant onslaught of the phone and email. It’s cheaper than flying and getting a rental car. It affords me a chance to be alone with my thoughts and mull things over. It gives me yet another chance to indulge myself at the Summerton Diner. But the real reason is probably that I’m just plain nuts.

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