Yesterday I drove down to Miami to tape an interview with Joseph Cooper at WLRN. (It will air on March 27th). The subject was my essay in the current issue of The Missouri Review about Palermo and the anti-Mafia organization Addiopizzo.
I am indebted to literary quarterlies for their interest. My first travel story, about the Tatra Mountains, appeared in The North American Review in 1981. Later that decade I published essays - on Warsaw and Madrid - in The American Scholar. These magazines provided - and continue to provide - a home for travel writing that travel magazines won't publish. There is much to be said for publications that aren't dependent on advertising.
The only problem is that fewer people read quarterlies than read glossy magazines, and so travel writing gets a frivolous, boosterish reputation. Not long ago I read excerpts from my Missouri Review essay at a writers' conference. The man who introduced me mentioned my books and then, instead of citing awards and praise (as he had with the poet and the novelist who had preceded me), he said: "The thing about Tom is, he's a great person to talk to about travel. He gets so enthusiastic about places." It was with immense pleasure that I got up and read about the worst slum in Palermo.