Monday, May 20, 2013

The Turk Who Loved Apples

What happens when a New York Times travel writer, a man who actually depends on traveling for his living, becomes bored with the routine of traveling on someone else's dime?  If you're Matt Gross, author of The Turk Who Loved Apples, you stop writing the paper's "Frugal Traveler" column and start writing its "Getting Lost" column instead.  (Despite Gross's claim that his sense of direction is so good that it is almost impossible for him to get lost in a strange city, his new column was a success.)

 The man is a natural born traveler.  Upon finishing college, when he was just 22 years old, Gross did something that would change the course of his life: he moved to Viet Nam pretty much just to see what would happen.  There he would eventually go to work for one of the country's English language newspapers, a job that brought him the credentials he needed to freelance a few travel and review columns on the side.  That work led to the Times job and Gross has been writing about travel and food ever since.

The Turk Who Loved Apples is all about the evolution of one traveler, a man who traveled so much in just a few years that he quit enjoying it - especially the "frugal" part of the equation because, as he puts it, there are only just so many ways to save money while on the road, and recycling them and trying to make them seem fresh became more of a chore than it was worth. 

Matt Gross
The book begins with Gross's Viet Nam experiences and, with flashbacks now and then to Viet Nam, covers some of his other travel "adventures" as well.  Travelers who prefer to stay off the much beaten tourist paths of the world will find Gross to be a kindred spirit.  As the years went by, the author more and more often decided that the most important thing about traveling is making new friends.  He began to focus more on experiencing new countries and cities the way the locals experience them, hoping to make - and keep - friends from each of the places he visited.  As a self-styled "wanderer" myself when time allows, I was both intrigued and inspired by his experiences in this regard.

I recommend The Turk Who Loved Apples to travel memoir enthusiasts with one minor caveat.  Gross presents a rather cavalier attitude toward women that can be a bit off-putting, particularly as regards his relationship to one Vietnamese prostitute.  The relationship he describes, whether Gross intends it or not, makes the prostitute appear to be a very sympathetic, if not tragic, character while leaving the reader wondering a bit about Gross himself - a case of, in my opinion, too much information.

Bottom Line: Good book for real travelers and armchair travelers alike.

(Review Copy provided by Publisher)


  1. One of the things that makes me feel tired of Asia is some of the male expats' attitudes about local women.

    The author picture: LOL. He's got Marty Feldman eyes.

    Despite my snarky remarks, I'll look forward to reading The Turk Who Loved Apples.

  2. Susan, I can well imagine why that attitude bothers you. I didn't see a lot of that in the parts of the world I worked in because Islam has such harsh penalties for that kind of female behavior that few risked it with expats...or they hid it very, very well (which is more likely). This is a good travel read...