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My Kind of Place


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About the Author

Susan Orlean has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992 and has also written for Outside, Esquire, Rolling Stone, and Vogue. She graduated from the University of Michigan and was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. She now lives in Los Angeles and upstate New York with her husband and son.


Orlean, longtime staff writer for The New Yorker, as well as best-selling author of The Orchid Thief and The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, has pulled together a fascinating collection of travel essays in her latest book. It contains 31 glimpses into a variety of places, from Midland, TX, (birthplace of George Bush) to Havana, Cuba, and Queens, NY, to the African music scene in Paris, France. An essay on child beauty pageants titled "Beautiful Girls" is a well-balanced, absorbing look at the hopes and dreams of fond parents and the positive and negative aspects of the competition, illustrated through interviews and Orlean's apt descriptions. Orlean brings a certain empathy to the people she meets, such as pageant organizer Darlene Burgess, who started in this career when she learned that most pageant judges were related to the competitors. Essays range in length from two to 16 pages, but all are possessed of absorbing topics and high-quality writing. A great read that will be popular with general audiences, this work is recommended for public libraries.-Alison Hopkins, Brantford P.L., Ont. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Orlean (The Orchid Thief) hasn't so much been everywhere as she's been everywhere no one else has thought to go. In this collection, she focuses not on cities but on singular locales and events. She zooms in on an African music shop in Paris, a grocery store in Queens and a fertility blessing ceremony in Bhutan. Belying the book's bland title, Orlean's essays are rich in color, metaphor and crafty language. For example, in Iceland, "the wind never huffs or puffs but simply blows your house down." Orlean's subtle humor infuses her writing as she uncovers strange beauties: a taxidermy convention is "a surreal carnality, but all conveyed with the usual trade show earnestness and hucksterism, with no irony and no acknowledgment that having buckets of bear noses for sale was anything out of the ordinary." Orlean uses the word "travel" loosely; "I view all stories as journeys," she explains. Indeed, many of the final pieces aren't grounded by place, but they nicely round out an insightful collection by an exceptional essayist. Agent, Richard Pine. (On sale Nov. 2) Forecast: This is Orlean's first book since the release of Adaptation (based on The Orchid Thief), which helped the author gain widespread recognition. Author publicity, a reading tour and print ads could make this a popular holiday pick. Simultaneous audio release. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

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