I have to admit I picked up this book with the comic title because I heard the author writes of his experiences at the Full Moon Party on Hat Rin Beach in Ko Pha Ngan, Thailand. I have indeed been to this relatively isolated island but not to the infamous festival of alcohol and psychedelic trance music. Luckily, British writer Geoff Dyer has actively partaken fully in all the legendary activities that have made the festival's reputation. But this episode is not the only attraction in this slyly funny, surprisingly introspective travel journal, which glides seamlessly from place to place on a magic carpet of hallucinogenic drugs. With a blessed lack of apology, Dyer chronicles his wide variety of mood swings with mind-bending wit and precise observation. A true drifter, he takes his jaundiced eye, as well as his loneliness, frequent listlessness and pervasive self-dissatisfaction, along with him wherever he goes, but what prevents the book from being an incoherent downer is how he makes his restless nature palpable and often hilarious.
In a collection of eleven short stories, the author takes us to New Orleans, Cambodia, Bali, Paris, Ko Pha Ngan, Rome, Miami, Amsterdam, Libya and Detroit, but he makes a point of ending each chapter with something to leave the reader wanting more. It could be a vivid image or a personalized sensation but never a look-back summary. Whether it's musing about the potential of a racially motivated incident on a Mississippi road trip or the details of a suicide in Miami's South Beach or the lush greenery of Bali's rice paddy fields or the artistry of a one-legged barber in Cambodia, Dyer has a gift for conveying his thoughts in an authentic, descriptive way that does not smack of posturing. It seems only appropriate that he ends his book at the Burning Man festival, the pinnacle of radical, often hedonistic self-expression. There, he sneaks up on a deeper purpose in life with little contrivance. If drug-induced states of alternating euphoria and depression are not your cup of tea, clearly this is not the book for you. Otherwise, I suggest you sit back and enjoy a most intriguing and idiosyncratic travel writer.