Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Honeymoon on Hardcover

So you're looking at this and you're thinking: Great, another travel book by an upper-crust, broken-hearted American who can afford to chuck the dead-end job for months and months of long-term travel, with all sorts of Oprah-worthy Finding My True Self Among The Poor Little People in the Third World epiphanies along the way. Come on, Mei, haven't you read that other memoir about chucking it all to travel the world - the one that actually has a longer chapter about Indonesia?
Okay, I'm not trying to diss Eat Pray Love here - in fact, I read Honeymoon with my Brother as a way of preparing me to read that book. (Also, Franz Wisner was on Oprah at around the same time as Elizabeth Gilbert.) And yet, Honeymoon had already been in my possession (neighbor gave it away - don't ask) for months, waiting to be read. It didn't take too long for me to break down and read it.
Those of you expecting some kind of "woe-is-me" pity party-turned here would be disappointed, because Franz Wisner writes in a way that doesn't make you want to feel sorry for him. Yeah, yeah, we know that he got dumped at the altar and demoted from the corner office, blah blah yada yada - in fact, the parts where he talks about his life post-dumpage will make you want to say, "Yeah, I hate your life, too." He's equally unapologetic about making fun of hippie backpackers, Lonely Planet guide books, Ugly Americans, crazy Third World taxi drivers, and occasional side trips into HoYay territory. And he definitely does not want our sympathy when he drags his younger brother along on his travels, in the hope of developing a better filial relationship that does not involve one carrying the other over a threshold.
Hemingway, he's not. But those of you hoping for Mitch Albom-style fuzzies will be horribly disappointed, because Honeymoon is not that kind of a book. True, the Wisner boys do end up bonding with each other and becoming Better Men at the end, but that doesn't mean you can't have a laugh at their expense over their adventures, where they stumble through continents like clueless party boys. It's a real-life version of The Darjeeling Limited, stretched out over 53 continents, but without the Freudian psychodrama or the designer luggage.
You'll read this and realize that, darnit, this is how straight guys travel the world: chucking guide books in the garbage can, enduring day-long flight delays, traveling great distances for weird-looking animals and amazing beaches. You'll snicker through stories of questionable sex, crashing with friends, and the things that go terribly wrong with your house while you're away. You'll laugh at the moments when they walk into a supposedly "un-touristy" restaurant and find themselves surrounded by fellow haoles who found the same restaurant through their guide book. You'll wade through pages and pages of horror stories, hoping somebody would hit them over the head and say, "Dammit, can't you find anything good to say?"... and then, as soon as they get on the departing flight, you'll find yourself empathizing when they tell you how they finally realized that they'd fallen in love with this crazy country, warts and all.

And as somebody who has managed to spend the first 2/3rds of her life in the Third World, I can tell you: they sure managed to get all those parts right. Especially the part where they don't want the whole ride to end.
A note: I recently read that not only are the Wisner brothers working on Book Part Deux (coming out in '08), but they now have a movie deal for this one as well. Sweet! I won't even mind them recasting the parts of Franz and Kurt Wisner so it won't look like them. Hint, hint, hint... um... hell to the no.

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