Eugene Fodor, world traveler, has come home. For 30 years he has been shepherding Americans through the wilds of Nepal, the souks of Morocco and the lost cities of Cambodia. Now he has edited eight readable and well-researched guides to the continental U.S. describing the pleasures of holidays at home. The guides are $1.95 each and can be bought either at bookstores (distributed by David McKay Co.) or at Shell service stations. Shell Oil Company participated in the project, without, however, being involved in the editing.
The sports information, up to now sadly lacking in most guide books, is generally excellent. There are errors and omissions, as one might expect from such an ambitious project, and a lot of the camping information is already out of date. The guide to the state of Washington makes only a passing historical mention of the highly scenic San Juan Islands in Puget Sound, which offer such excellent boating. Nevertheless, the writers and researchers have done a remarkable job of sifting the unwieldy amounts of information that pour in from chambers of commerce, parks departments and public relations agencies whose business it is to bring in the tourist.
Each state is treated separately and in depth, and 30 important cities have separate sections with maps—New York has almost half a book to itself. Hotels, restaurants and attractions are described in detail, and gentle advice is given on how best to behave to gain the approval of the local citizenry.
The guides are a good combination of evocative travel writing and hard fact. Each book begins with a general essay on its particular region. The choice of writers for these opening essays was obviously made with care, and the results are lively.
The essay on the Midwest was written by Paul Engle, Director of the Creative Writing Workshop at the University of Iowa, and the background of the Rockies and Plains was provided by Stewart L. Udall, the Secretary of the Interior.
Another essay, "Exploring the State," follows, describing, with maps, motor itineraries and points of interest. Then comes practical information on hotels, motels and restaurants, divided into five basic categories ranging from "super deluxe" to "inexpensive." The descriptions are occasionally a little coy: one French restaurant is "so Gallic you'll think you're in Paree," and there is an Italian place where "they are past masters at being pasta masters." Comments and criticism are invited by the editors.