Grescoe, Taras 1966-
Grescoe, Taras 1966-
PERSONAL: Born 1966, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
CAREER: Teacher of English in Paris, France, c. 1990-94; travel journalist based in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, beginning 1996. Has also worked variously as a newspaper boy, concession stand worker in a movie theater, video store clerk, delivery driver, and researcher.
AWARDS, HONORS: Mavis Gallant Prize for nonfiction, 2000, Quebec Writers’ Federation First Book Award, 2000, and Edna Staebler Award for creative nonfiction, 2001, all for Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey through Quebec.
Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey through Quebec, Macfarlane, Walter & Ross (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2000.
The End of Elsewhere: Travels among the Tourists, Macfarlane, Walter & Ross (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 2003.
The Devil’s Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit, Bloomsbury Publishers (New York, NY), 2005.
Author’s books have been translated into Japanese, German, French, and Chinese. Contributor to periodicals, including the London Times, Chicago Tribune Magazine, Wired, New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Saturday Night, Canadian Geographic, Gourmet, The Independent, The Guardian, New York Times Magazine, and Condé Nast Traveler.
SIDELIGHTS: Taras Grescoe is a Canadian journalist and author who uses travel pieces to engage in commentary upon human nature, politics, history, and exotic and mundane locations not immediately accessible to average readers. Grescoe’s first full-length book, Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey through Quebec, grew from his decision to settle in Quebec after growing up in western Canada and also living in Paris for four years. His status as an outside observer of the Quebecois allowed him to explore the distinctiveness of the culture without preconceived political or social prejudices, and he wrote Sacré Blues as a meditation on one of North America’s unique societies.
Grescoe traveled through the province, interviewing prominent intellectuals and citizens on the street, eating the favorite local foods, and watching the popular television shows. He covers the region’s holidays, politics, and generational differences, its evolving language patterns, and its citizens’ perception of their place in North America and the world. In a Canadian Geographic review of Sacré Blues, Joel Yanofsky commended Grescoe as a “thorough, unflagging and quirky researcher.” Yanofsky also observed that Grescoe’s enthusiasm “will probably help the rest of the country understand a little better Quebec’s never-ending ambivalence about its place in Canada.” Describing the book as “lively” and “information-packed,” Padma Viswanathan concluded in Quill & Quire that “Grescoe is opinionated and has great affection for Quebec, but remains skilful and professional throughout.”
The End of Elsewhere: Travels among the Tourists finds Grescoe in Europe and Asia, taking pre-packaged tours to popular destinations and musing on the history of the tourist trade and its impact on native cultures and the ecology. Toronto Globe and Mail writer Kisha Ferguson called the work “one of the most original travel books to come out in years.” In a review for the Montreal Review of Books, Ian McGillis commented: “Grescoe comes up with a twist that ought to set his book apart in a crowded and competitive genre. What raises the book a further notch, though, is that for all the author’s stated determination to set self-consciousness aside, he ends up revealing a lot about his own need to wander.” In a review for LauraHird.com, Marc Goldin wrote: “This book is an unbelievably honest look at the state of travel and tourism in general and at one man’s life spent in the pursuit of this, specifically.... More than that, it was well written and poetic at moments and philosophical always, in its examination of the state of our world in these times.”
Grescoe’s third book took him on another epic journey around the world, this time searching out substances that are illegal or taboo in many cultures and reflecting on the sociological impact of prohibition. The Devil’s Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit was described by Straight.com reviewer Alexander Varty as “an insightful, witty, and ultimately sobering analysis of pleasure.”New Statesman contributor Ned Denny called the book a “perceptive, cogent and witty analysis of the enduring folly that is prohibition.” In a Washington Post review, Josh Fried-land said of Grescoe: “Behind this culinary risk-taker hides a true policy wonk, deeply interested in the regulations that make so many forbidden foods, drinks and drugs... forbidden.” Writing for the National Post, Robert Wiersema called The Devil’s Picnic“a feast of delights for the armchair gourmet,” adding that “it is difficult not to gorge oneself on Grescoe’s writing.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Canadian Geographic, September, 2000, Joel Yanofsky, “Newcomer Takes a Brazen Romp through La Belle Province,” p. 81.
Globe and Mail (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), May 3, 2003, Kisha Ferguson, review of The End of Elsewhere: Travels among the Tourists.
Maclean’s, November 13, 2000, “A Tour of Quebec Quirkiness,” p. 50.
Montreal Review of Books, October 1, 2003, Andy Brown, “Explaining Poutine”; spring-summer, 2003, Ian McGillis, review of The End of Elsewhere.
National Post, March 4, 2006, Robert Wiersema, “Traverse the World’s Offbeat and Verboten,” p. WP16.
New Statesman, March 6, 2006, Ned Denny, “Illegal Highs,” p. 55.
Quill & Quire, September, 2000, Padma Viswanathan, review of Sacré Blues: An Unsentimental Journey through Quebec, p. 50.
Washington Post, October 23, 2005, Josh Friedland, review of The Devil’s Picnic: Around the World in Pursuit of Forbidden Fruit, p. T08.
LauraHird.com, http://www.laurahird.com/ (December 25, 2006), Marc Goldin, review of The End of Elsewhere.
Straight.com, http://www.straight.com/ (March 2, 2006), Alexander Varty, review of The Devil’s Picnic.
Wilfrid Laurier University Web site, http://www.wlu.ca/ (September 18, 2001), Kathryn Wardropper, “Sacré Blues Wins Edna Staebler Award for Creative Nonfiction.”