Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Tony Perrottet

Tony Perrottet is the author of four books - a collection of travel stories, Off the Deep End: Travels in Forgotten Frontiers (1997); Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists (2002); The Naked Olympics: The True Story of the Greek Games (2004); and Napoleon's Privates: 2500 Years of History Unzipped (July 1, 2008). He has also contributed to international publications including Smithsonian Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Esquire, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, the New York Times, and the London Sunday Times, and is a regular television guest on the History Channel.

Last week I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
I'm currently going through a very pleasant reading phase: After two years of poring over dry academic works with titles like “The Cultural History of Masturbation” or “Chastity Belts in Private British Collections” for Napoleon's Privates, I've been meandering through some books I've been meaning to read for ages. There's no real pattern: I've just finished The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby (famously composed while he was paralyzed except for his left eye) which was a pretty humbling experience (it makes you want to drop everything and run wild in Central Park), and at the opposite end of the gravity scale, Woody Allen's hilarious collection Mere Anarchy.

I've just started John Berendt's City of Falling Angels - I finally managed to get to Venice last year to visit Casanova's prison cell in the Doge's Palace, having traveled almost everywhere else in the world, and was delighted to find Venice was nowhere near as Disneyfied as I'd feared, so I'm keen to read what Berendt comes up with. (He's a master of mixing history and travel into a ripping yarn).

I've also started Capote's In Cold Blood, which I'm embarrassed to say I've never read - it's certainly off to a powerful start, and the descriptions haven't dated at all.

Meanwhile, I'm heading out West this summer on my annual Smithsonian Magazine story gig - this time to Monument Valley in Utah -- so I've just bought Hampton Sides' Blood and Thunder about Kit Carson to get me in the mood, and Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove to take with me on the road. I actually read Lonesome Dove last time I was in the Southwest many years ago, and it made a big impression on me. It's the ultimate road trip page-turner: McMurtry's use of narrative makes it utterly addictive, and I think anyone writing non-fiction can learn something from it…
Read an excerpt from Napoleon's Privates: 2500 Years of History Unzipped, and learn more about the book and author at Tony Perrottet's website.

--Marshal Zeringue