JEREMY ATIYAH COLUMN

You can't package a burning, feverish passion for adventure into a guidebook...

Oh no, a horrible apparition has just arrived on my desk. A guidebook - not to a place, but to a "passion".

"Venture deep into the heart of your interests, with a new approach to travel planning ..." breathes the back page. "This guide summons free- spirited travelers [sic] enchanted by the supernatural mystique that shrouds locations throughout the United States ..."

Oh dear, so it's that kind of passion. Not a burning, feverish desire, then. But a dreary, little suburban interest. A hobby. A trainspotterish pastime. The guidebook I see before me, entitled Haunted Holidays, is one of a new series of themed guidebooks from Insight Guides, in conjunction with the people who own the Discovery Channel.

It is certainly making me feel ghastly. The opening pages of the book are packed with photographs of "ghosts", such as the transparent woman in a wedding dress standing in a cemetery in Arizona on pages six and seven. I don't know who she is supposed to be, but she is certainly not a person I have the slightest expectation of meeting on any earthly holiday.

Nor does Haunted America strike me as a brilliant place for self-proclaimed "information-providers" such as Discovery to start its new series. The introduction to the book after all - following immediately after the photograph of the headless man by a tombstone holding a three-cornered hat - does refer to Discovery Communications as "the world's premier source of non- fiction television programming".

But I'll put aside the question of whether or not ghosts are supposed to be fictional. What really depresses me is that guidebooks to the world are seeking to become more interesting than the world itself.

In search of the unknown? Longing to seek the mysteries of the universe? Don't expect to have an adventure looking for it. It's all meticulously recorded in this book for you, along with the telephone numbers of the local chambers of commerce. The best place to hear the disembodied voices of Capuchin priests for example (outside St Louis Cathedral on rainy nights). The ideal location to detect the screams and groans of the victims of the St Valentine's Day Massacre (a nursing home in Chicago). Even the right spot to observe the shades of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Jackson (the White House). And underneath you'll even find details of where to stay and how to get there.

Having reduced the entire planet to a tourism commodity, guidebook writers (I confess I'm one of them) seem to want to move to another level altogether. It is as though we have already decided that the real world is not interesting enough any more. That we are bored of it. Bored of the same old continents, the same old countries, the same old stereotypes - clogging up our maps and guidebooks year after year.

Is that it? Is that why we now need maps larger and with more details than the places they purport to map, and why we need to fill our guidebooks with mumbo-jumbo about bodies in wells and pirates in pits? Because India and China - and dare I say it, the United States of America - are not mysterious enough in themselves?

If so I suggest that the solution might be to throw away all guide-books ever written to date. Then wait a few years. Eventually we might start getting up our passions (of the burning, feverish variety) for this world all over again.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Investigo: IT Auditor

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    US immigration: President Obama ready to press ahead with long-promised plan to overhaul 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?

    Immigration: Obama's final frontier

    The President is ready to press ahead with the long-promised plan to overhaul America's 'broken system' - but will it get past a Republican-controlled Congress?
    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained: Why are these allegations coming out now? Why didn’t these women come forward earlier? And why has nobody taken legal action?

    Bill Cosby rape allegations explained

    Why are these allegations coming out now? Why has nobody taken legal action? And what happens next for the man once thought of as 'America's Dad'
    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

    You know that headache you’ve got?

    Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

    Scoot commute

    Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
    Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

    The Paul Robeson story

    How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
    10 best satellite navigation systems

    Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

    Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
    Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

    Paul Scholes column

    England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

    Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

    Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
    Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

    Frank Warren column

    Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
    Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

    Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

    Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
    Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

    'How do you carry on? You have to...'

    The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

    Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

    'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

    Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
    Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

    Sir John Major hits out at theatres

    Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
    Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

    Kicking Barbie's butt

    How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines