I thought I was done, at least till next year, with my little Snow and Books series of not-exactly-reviews of Connecticut travel guides. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) But then I found the worst book. Like, "Oh my God, Becky, look at this book. It is so bad." I'd rather be nice about good books, because a) I love travel guides and b) I feel like when there's good travel writing out there, of any sort, that means there's a market for it and an interest in it from publishers, which of course is good for me as a writer, at least in theory. But then I stumbled upon this book, and despaired. It was so bad I had to share it. (And though it wasn't snowing, it was unseasonably cold.)
So, this is Romancing the Roads: A Driving Diva's Firsthand Guide, East of the Mississippi, by Gerry Hempel Davis. It's published by Taylor Trade Publishing, and if the title makes you uneasy, it should: this is only Volume One. There is a whole other book for the states west of the Mississippi. Davis was a producer on the Ed Sullivan Show and a Today Show correspondent, which apparently entitles her to be a travel writer because, oh, I don't know, the world is a terrible place. (Despair!)
The book is marketed as being useful for travelers driving around America as well as entertaining for readers who want to experience that road trip vicariously from their couch. Of course, all good travel guides fulfill both functions anyway, so this shouldn't need to be so explicitly spelled out, especially when a book fails on both fronts. But anyway.
Romancing the Roads is divided into sections for each state. I only read the Connecticut section, because this is The Size of Connecticut, and because that was all I could stand. The Connecticut section is very short.
Today I Learned: Connecticut is small. It has "fabulous shorelines, bucolic settings, estates, industrial cities belching smoke...and a few unpretentious villages that time seems to have bypassed." "Connecticut's main drag is the infamous I-95." Traveling on back roads is often less congested than on highways. The coast "has a lot to offer."
I never would have known any of that, nor could I have found it anywhere else, say, online, or in 37 other, better guidebooks. [Picture a sarcasm emoticon here, rolling its little googly eyes.]
Amusements: The only towns Davis really singles out for mention are Essex, Madison, and the borough of Fenwick in Old Saybrook. I love Essex, and Madison is lovely too. I, too, recommend that people visit them. And though there's not much in Fenwick, if you're a Katherine Hepburn fan, then sure, knock yourself out. But still...huh??
Aside from this slice of shoreline, the Connecticut section of Romancing the Roads is mostly about... wait for it...casinos. There is actually a bold heading that says "Connecticut, AKA the Casino State." Davis informs us that "both casinos are centrally located," which made me wonder if she had ever even been to Connecticut. But then, as if anticipating this criticism, she spends pages - the bulk of the section, really - on casino restaurant reviews, descriptions of casino decor, and praise of the massages at the spas.
Listings: So few and so random as to be not worth mentioning, except I can't not mention that the two listings for Madison are Hammonasset State Park and a car wash.
Quotes: On the Delamar, in Greenwich: "I have not heard a derogatory word about this property; therefore, I include it. Also, I knew a previous general manager and respect his properties. Delamar is added as an FYI. It receives superb ratings, and not a thing is out of place. Because it is on the beautiful Greenwich Harbor, this property's placement has a very special dimension and ambiance. I look forward to verifying my Delamar info."
(One other weird note: Romancing the Roads appears to be sponsored, like a post on a fashion blog. There's a "Contributors" section at the back, wherein Davis thanks the companies that gave her free stuff, like a camera and a car, to use during her writing of the book. Have I used the word "despair" too much today?)