What makes a classic travel book? First, there is a destination that is geographically distant or philosophically exotic for most readers. In other words, this is a place that will change you.
Next, there is a Sancho-Panza-like attention to quirky, fascinating detail that anchors the narrative in reality. Meaning this is a story about the world we all live in, not just a world some author and his readers wish to live in.
Then, there is a Don-Quixote-like quest aspect to the journey. This indicates there is at least a hope that all these details will come together to mean something in the less-real-but-more-lofty realm of ideas.
Last, there is comedy, tragedy and sensuality to spice up the tale with a full range of experience. Not every travel book contains all these elements, but most epic pilgrimages do.
The above criteria also constitute my review of In Patagonia. Read it or die unfulfilled. Author Bruce Chatwin sets off for parts remote to obtain closure for childhood dreams and become a man.
Along the way, he stumbles upon the historical tracks of outlaw Butch Cassidy. This engages every man's inner fugitive from society at a primal level. The volume is filled with such tantalizing diversions but blurs the line between fact and fiction a little more than I would prefer.
Chatwin's work is classic travel lit. Plus, if you find sinewy men more appealing than curvaceous women, you will also bond with Bruce's latent sexuality. However, if you are as frighteningly heterosexual as I am (or wish to appear so to neighborhood bullies), a copy of my book under your arm is an even wiser investment. Sorry Bruce. Like my alter ego Chief Sitting and Writing Bull says, "A journey of a thousand miles is bound to take you out of the closet."