Dear Friends and Colleagues from Around the World,
My Saddest Pleasures received impressive reviews, although we didn’t have the same luck with our Guatemalan documentary, “Trouble in the Highlands.” I’ll tell some stories about excellent literature, documentaries, and classic rock music in Culture Watch. As always, I will share My Writing, Interviews, Reviews, Voices of the Day, What Others Are Saying, and an updated Calendar.
First, check out a brief video of the new book and share it with friends you think will like My Saddest Pleasures. Find out what others have said about my book and enjoy some of my stories of horror travel adventures. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nrmkl6GafNI
Diane Donavan, the Senior Reviewer of the Midwest Review, produced an insightful review of my new book:
My Saddest Pleasures differs from most both in its size and in its succinct considerations of how travel changes not just self, but the environments that the traveler encounters. The combined flavor of wonder, new experiences, ecological and social reflection, and adventure brings with it a newfound opportunity to understand the traveler’s impact on a deeper level than most. Domestic and foreign experiences alike are outlined with these lessons in mind…
The result is a mindful reflection on experience and lessons from life, which offers fellow travelers insights into embracing the unexpected: “…we’re almost at our best and learn the most when we miscalculate and have to depend on the locals (and our wits) to figure a way out of the mess.”
Libraries strong in travelogues, short travel essays, and thought-provoking experiences captured in word and image will relish the wide-ranging encounters outlined in My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, a portrait of discoveries, change, and “what ifs” in a pre-pandemic world of opportunity.
I often include lyrics from classic rock songs that inspire me. Pop songs like Stevie Wonder’s and “Living for the City” made me want to meet and live among people different from me to question the status quo. Those who lived through the culture wars of the ’70s will remember the sultry lyrics from the lead song, which is recognized today as a masterpiece:
A boy is born in hard time Mississippi
Surrounded by four walls that ain’t so pretty
His parents give him love and affection
To keep him strong moving in the right direction…
This song says much about structural racism, the war on drugs, mass incarceration, and homelessness–and still resonates today, as these problems persist, as described in the excellent article from Sojourners.
My Writing, Interviews & Reviews
Despite four years of hard work with fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer cinematographer Hal Rifken, and unique collaboration on many levels from so many people, we’ve decided to shut down the production of our documentary, “Trouble in the Highlands.” We did come close in 2020, as we had a foundation’s commitment to underwrite a production trip Hal was to begin. Three days before the trip, the airport and borders into Guatemala were summarily shut down due to COVID. The pandemic put the documentary on hold for over two years. In the process, we lost our underwriting . . . and our momentum.
The production process has been a revealing journey. We’ve learned much and made many friends along the way. I wrote my first article on the theme for the summer issue of “WorldView Magazine” in 2019, and then it was reissued in Revue Magazine: http://www.revuemag.com/tag/mark-d-walker/
Over the next few years, they published eight of my articles on immigration/ Guatemala. We made one production trip to Cajola, Guatemala, with the help of activists Caryn Maxim and Eduardo Jimenez, from which we edited two trailers, the most recent of which can be found on our website: https://www.troubleinthehighlands.com/
We fought the good fight and still have much to do to help others appreciate the potential and challenges of making changes in Guatemala and U.S. immigration policies so that so many don’t have to flee to the north. And I know we’ll continue to learn, analyze and look for opportunities to help Guatemalans who need our advocacy, understanding, and support.
I’ve gotten to know the author over the years based on a shared appreciation of iconic writer Moritz Thomsen, who Tom met in Ecuador, and our love of travel and travel writing. The Panama Hat Trail is one of my all-time favorite tales, and I was impressed when I learned it took the author two trips and eight months to complete it! My wife, who is Guatemalan, loved How I Learned English, a series of stories of Latinos learning English.
Since the author is considered by many as one of the best nonfiction/travel writers, I headed for the chapter on that subject. Initially, the author didn’t know that travel writing was a genre, but quickly learned, “Great travel writing describes what’s going on when nobody’s looking. It consists of equal parts curiosity, vulnerability, and vocabulary. It is not simply for know-it-alls or the indecisive. “A well-grounded sense of place is a challenge for the writer.” That says it all.
The author tells a fascinating story of his search for the real Don Quixote. In Spain, he tracked down a “Puticlub” (whorehouse) to determine if any of the ladies knew or talked about Don Quixote’s leading lady, Dulcinea.
Miller describes some of his 30 visits to Havana, where he met his wife, Regla, and his interaction with Ry Cooper. The latter introduced him to the world outside of Cuba through the magical music group “Buena Vista Social Club.”
And ends his book with, “Parkinson’s is fashionable these days,” writes Michael Kinsley in Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide. Perhaps so, but it was never on my dance card, lord knows. Still, on entering my ultimo tercio de la vide, the final third of my life, I’ve broken through denial and reluctantly adapted to the unknown. Now, where was I?”
One last note, I recently attended a book signing for Miller in Tucson, where over 50 fans arrived to show their appreciation of this prolific writer and purchase his memoir. And yet, the author was obliged to self-publish his memoir, despite having written seven books, edited four, and is considered one of our best nonfiction writers—a clear indicator of changes in the publishing industry and the reputation for travel writing. Here’s the link to the entire review:
What Others Are Saying
About my new book:
Thoughtful, affectionate, and slender – you look for these qualities in your friends — and find them in My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road, Tom Miller, author of Panama Hat Trail and The Revenge of the Saguaro.
“A very interesting little book that shares rich observations about life and travel. A great read!” Renee Louzon Benn
I thoroughly enjoyed reading Mark Walker’s book… It was a fast read, and the tales of ups and downs kept me intrigued. I was expecting a story mostly about his Peace Corps experience, but there was so much more! Travels with a family, including small children, was very informative, and the stories about traveling with donors taught me a lot about the fine line (sometimes a tightrope) that needs to be negotiated. Thanks, Ross, for passing the book along to me.
About shutting down production of our Guatemala documentary:
I was so sorry to see this! I know what a disappointment it is. Funding a movie/documentary is the hardest part of all of these projects. At least you gave it a good try. Susan Pohlman, Writer, Editor, Writing Coach
Mark, I so appreciate the work you are doing for Guatemala. Too bad Covid wrecked so many things. Best of luck in the future, Bob Graham, founder of Namaste Direct & Namaste Guatemala, businessman, CPA, philanthropist, and author.
Voices in Action
“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that’s wrong with the world.”
Paul Farmer (1959-2022) Physician, anthropologist, and co-founder of Partners in Health.
- July 23 Payson Book Festival
- TBD Book Signing Changing Hands
You can find my 60 book reviews and 28 articles, plus several videos at https://millionmilewalker.com/ . “Follow” me on Twitter. https://twitter.com/millionmile, @millionmile_wal , and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/millionmilewalker/ for the latest on international affairs and literature. And, as always, if you’ve read “Different Latitudes: My Life in the Peace Corps and Beyond,” by all means, rate it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and GoodReads, or if you don’t have it, please consider purchasing it or, better still, purchase my latest book, My Saddest Pleasures: 50 Years on the Road. https://www.cyberwit.net/publications/1919
Mark D. Walker