Friday, December 2, 2011

Leed la Revolucion!!!

Thanks to the cascading revenue stream that is this blog, I'm taking an all-expenses paid trip to Cuba next week. I feel like Hemingway, only without the shotguns, sadness, and sexism.

Last night I went to my local library to check out some guidebooks. While there, I glanced at potential literary companions for my Lonely Planets. But I suck at picking travel lit - I always end up with some bizarre combination of book and locale. Help from our global readers would be appreciated.

Here are the options as I see them:

1. SETTING-BASED READ - Reading a classic English-language novel set in the current location. For instance, reading The Sun Also Rises in Spain, The Quiet American in Vietnam, or New Moon in Forks, Washington.
Pros: You know what to expect - a fantastic read. The setting pops even more when you are there.
Cons: It feels a little contrived. If I'm going to re-read The Old Man and the Sea, I might as well be taking a "Hemingway Bus Tour."

2. AUTHOR-BASED READ - I could read the classics in Cuban literature. Alejo Carpentier is considered the greatest Cuban novelist of our time.
Pros: This seems a more authentic choice than the prior one; less anthropological. It can set up the emotional nature of a country.
Cons: Reading foreign novelists, while often rewarding, can be deceptively difficult. While I like Murakami and Pamuk, I can't shake the feeling that my foreignness holds me back from embracing their core.

3. BEACH READ - I can always say, "screw it, I'm going to read about Girls with Dragons for Tattoos."
Pros: Easy read. I can pick up the book on my layover in Des Moines.
Cons: Why am I wasting my time in (amazing foreign locale) reading this again?

4. HISTORICAL READ - Learn about that time that Che and Fidel played a round of golf after right after they did the revolution.
Pros: Informative; educational; substantial.
Cons: Informative; educational; substantial (while in amazing foreign locale)


  1. Option 5- The Wild Card:

    Ask a local, and see what you end up with. It may not be in English, but since you hablas espanol I'm sure you're up to the challenge.

    And another thing; I know you're not as big a Hemingway freak as your co-bloggers, but if you don't make a pilgrimage to Finca Vigia, there's truly something wrong with you.

  2. John Lee Anderson wrote a biography of Che, entitled "Che Guevara," that I read while in college, and it remains to this day one of the more fascinating books I've ever read.