Monday, April 14, 2008

Lonely Planet guidebook fiction

I’ve long been suss about Lonely Planet guides anyway. An Aussie export powerhouse, centered on – and so co-opted by – the American market. Which puts it in an exclusive club of three – the other two of which are crocs (Dundee and Steve Irwin).

Worse though, is Lonely Planet’s odiferous boomer taint. Beginning from humble and youthful beginnings in the early 1970s, Lonely Planet began, or if not greatly popularised, the supposed distinction between “tourists” (bad) and “travellers” (good). I would have thought that any such distinction has just one acid test – tourists carry mass-market guidebooks. QED.

The boomer taint insidiously extends to Lonely Planet’s editorial, in the oddest places. Here’s a background small fact about the Tanami Track (from Lonely Planet Outback Australia 2002 by Rob Van Driesum and Denis O'Byrne p 179 (accessed through Google Books)):

“Up until the early 1970s there was a stock route that went from Refrigerator Bore [183 km NW of Yuendemu] . . . to Balgo and Halls Creek. This route was pioneered in the early 1960s and a series of wells dug along its length to supply the cattle. Once trucks took over from droving, the route was no longer used”.

Unless someone here is taking the piss, Lonely Planet actually wants us to know that a track that was “pioneered” (no less) in the early 1960s was obsolete within ten years. Apart from factual dubiousness of this quote (the last droving use of the Canning Stock Route, for example, was in 1958, about when road-trains for cattle took off), there is its barely hidden meta-narrative of all boomers (and of all Lonely Planet guides). That all time froze circa 1973, but in so freezing, a more innocent time of a decade earlier was somehow captured in the final result. “We want (back) our childhood (/got-there before-it-was ruined traveller-hood), and we want it now” – the boomers’ evergreen, pathetic anthem.

Roll up, roll up, welcome to the perma-nostalgic, pioneering 1960s. For boomers, it's the decade without a past, or end.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?