Travel / Adventure / Nonfiction
A Collection of Travel Stories
by Gary McWilliams
ISBN number: 978-0-578-07507-5
Musings about the Book
My guide in writing Wanderlusting was to write the kind of book I like to read. Real stuff will forever be more interesting than fiction; why make up things when true life is so incredibly rich in story. I like reading about regular people doing exceptional things. I said regular people, which means not aristocrats—maybe it's my Scotch-Irish ancestry, but any time I pick up a book written about past or present English blue-bloods, I want to pat on the back our Revolutionary ancestors who booted their bewigged Lordships out of the country. And I said exceptional things—I have no attraction to writers, such as Raymond Carver, who think you want to read about the daily doldrums of rednecks in trailer parks. I like books that are information rich; presented in context, history and science are a major plus. I like humor—sometimes, I think, as a child I watched too much Abbott and Costello. I like books that are at least somewhat optimistic, that make your day a little better. I would not read the darker writing that is so popular today—think Cormac McCarthy—any more than I would club myself on the head with a hammer, which amounts to about the same thing.
My personal taste in books does not include confessionals, self-discoveries, soap operas, relationships, explicit sex or gore. Regarding sex, a few old time friends have accused: "You left the sex out." I have no interest in reading about your sex life—I don't even like to watch sex in movies—and I am not about to reveal mine. Get that kind of writing from someone else. How about relationships? I make only a few passing references. Like sex, I regard relationships as personal. And, simply, neither sex nor relationships are what the book is about. And, the book is certainly no confessional—you're not my priest, don't expect it. How about self discovery? When I see "A Voyage of Self Discovery" or something of the sort on a book jacket, I go nearly faint with anticipation—oh, how I want to rush home and read about some adventurer discovering, maybe while freezing to death in the Arctic or swatting bugs in the Amazon, that he really hates his Mother? Give me a break. No self discovery in Wanderlusting—maybe self actualization.
The distinction between nonfiction and fiction in writing is an interesting one. I think about all those grey-haired librarians of my youth physically separating the two as if they were dogs and cats. But, if nonfiction means Truth, with a capital "T," the distinction is nonsense. Nothing ever written—absolutely nothing—is Truth in an absolute sense—not memoir, not biography, not cold-blooded history, not politics, not religion—especially not religion—and not even science. Everything is written by humans and all humans see things through their own lens. Facts (whatever they are) are perceived through the filters of both individual personality and the cultural paradigms of the times. Recommended: Akira Kurosawa's classic movie: Rashomon, in which all the witnesses of a murder see it in an entirely different way. Also recommended: a freshman course on the history of science, which will show that science, however exulted as rational and objective, is ever changing. Unless you are a person of faith, i.e., religion, there is no such thing as "Truth." And, there is no such thing as nonfiction.
Still, I am told that I need put either "Fiction" or "Nonfiction" on the jacket so that the book can be placed in stores and libraries. Ok, I can appreciate their need for some basis of organization. One of my favorite writers, Mario Vargas Llosa, uses the word "Novel," which implies fiction, for books that are clearly autobiography, which are a form of nonfiction. It is his way on fending off the inevitable "not so," coming from someone who remembers things differently. He is "covering his ass," to put it in the vernacular. I considered following suit. But no, I will decline this game playing for now—will continue using "nonfiction" because, however I quibble the distinction, it still communicates to the potential reader that the book is of the real world, and that the happenings described did happen.