Litkicks Message Board Archive

Taking a class on Travel Writing

Posted to Utterances




Burroughs' description of Tangiers as "complete laissez faire" is common for places where foreigners visit. At port towns, people come and leave their inhibitions at the door, willing to spend money on things they'd be too embarassed to do at home. Whenever there's money the local economy will provide the service and quickly become whatever it is that travelers expect of it.

I'm reading an important book from the 70s called Orientalism by Edward Said (Sah-eed), about how the Orient is always looked at through a lense of superiority by the west, or Occident. It's an interesting phenomanon, and probably similar to what Burroughs experienced in Tangiers: the west stereotypes the east as an exotic place where sex (of all kinds) and drugs are freely given, people from the west go to the east expecting such things and are willing to pay for it, the east BECOMES these things because of the money involved. Is there a "pure" east, uneffected by the west's influence? And, if so, would anyone remember it anyway?

I highly recommend Orientalism. I found it to be a real eye-opener. Depending on your level of masochism, I'd either suggest reading the introduction which frames his entire argument but in incredably dense, academic language (along the lines of Frederick Jameson) or skip the introduction and read the book, where he basically takes 300 pages to say what he originally said in about 25.