A collection of lyrical travel writings from celebrated writer and NPR commentator Alan Cheuse. Along with luggage and tickets, we always travel with that which it is impossible to leave behind: ourselves, our spirits, our souls. By definition the best travel writing carries us on a soul-journey, the sort of trip that dramatizes how the heart learns about its place in the world. In A Trance After Breakfast, poetic wanderer and novelist Alan Cheuse has crafted a collection that masterfully exceeds such standards. He lures the reader around the world, from Bali and New Zealand to Mexico and back home again to his native New Jersey, making the foreign familiar and the familiar slightly foreign. Collected from such celebrated publications as Gourmet, the Antioch Review, and the San Diego Reader, the dispatches in A Trance After Breakfast will enchant, captivate, and transport readers.
Praise for A Trance After Breakfast
It’s very good to travel with Cheuse, the literate Jersey boy who’s lived long enough to think it’s time to see the rest of the world. As our guide, he’s seeing it all for the first time, just like we are (though he’s read about it), so that he’s dazzled, moved, impressed, shocked, instructed and provoked. He is us, in other words. And he relishes the vast world outside his ken as if it were a rare jewel.
This is how I want to learn to travel, with Alan Cheuse’s eye and ear and brain and, most of all, heart. ‘A love affair of fierce currents,’ indeed. A Trance After Breakfast will endure as a model for the engaged explorer, even the armchair sort.
Alan Cheuse’s evocations of place — the water world of his youth on the Jersey shore, his tramps in Bali and New Zealand, his inquiries on California’s border with Mexico — are Whitmanesque in their enthusiasm and captivating in all their particulars. His observations on the way various writers have approached southeast Asian settings in their novels, on the one hand, and his thoughts on Jewish cultural life in Mexico, on the other, are the reflections of a charming and original mind.
Perhaps best-known as one of NPR’s book critics, Alan Cheuse is a multitalented writer, his gift for lyrical travel writing amply displayed in this collection of 11 essays… Alan Cheuse is a pleasurable traveling companion not merely because of the keenness of his eye but also because of the richness of his vision and his evocative prose. ‘The best travel writing carries us along on a soul-journey,’ as he puts it, ‘the sort of trip that may or may not tell you about the best hotels and the good places to eat but certainly… dramatizes how the heart learns about itself in relation to the world, making the foreign familiar and the familiar slightly foreign.’ He more than meets that standard in this appealing volume.
—Harvey Freedenberg, Shelf Awareness
With his latest book, A Trance After Breakfast and Other Passages, Cheuse shows himself to be a fine travel writer as well — though pointedly not the kind of travel writer who simply offers a guidebook about select locales; as he argues in the introduction to the new collection, “the best travel writing carries us along on a soul-journey, the sort of trip that may or may not tell you about the best hotels and the good places to eat, but certainly… dramatizes how the heart learns about itself in relation to the world, making the foreign familiar and the familiar slightly foreign.”
—Art Taylor, artandliterature.com
Writers reading Cheuse always learn something about being a better writer. We learn about structure, beauty, the unique turn of phrase no one else would use, we learn to write directly to the reader. In reading A Trance After Breakfast, you’ll learn how to take your travel experience and make something it more. We observe Cheuse’s simple narrative style, which succeeds because of his ability to remain aware. In doing so, he makes something more of himself because of his travels. A Trance After Breakfast is a fine blend of travel and personal essays, and a model of narrative non-fiction only a good story-teller could weave.
—Helen Gallagher, blogcritics.com
Novelist, essayist, editor and NPR mainstay Cheuse compiles a highly literate travelogue from material previously published in Gourmet, the Antioch Review and elsewhere. In “Reading the Archipelago,” Cheuse’s survey of Indonesia-centric literature is so compelling it will make readers want to pick up some Conrad and Melville. The clever “Thirty-five Passages Over Water” covers notable journeys, the parts that come before or after the destination, moving backward in time. “CODA: Two Oceans” evokes the Jersey native’s Atlantic/Pacific memories. The title piece recounts Bali’s atmosphere of spirituality, but isn’t as strong as his reporting from the U.S.-Mexico border at San Ysidro: “the great crossing point, nexus of cultures, nexus of countries, nexus of vision, nexus of borderlands between first world and third”; he’s just as piercing regarding the psychology of those who make the trip across. Though it starts slow, three Mexico narratives prove splendid enough to forgive; Cheuse’s eclectic journeys shine a spotlight on one of the greatest rewards of travel, “to know… something quite valuable that had never occurred to us before.”