PERSONAL: Born in Australia. Education: Attended Sydney University.
CAREER: Freelance writer and photographer, 1987—.
Off the Deep End: Travels in Forgotten Frontiers, Harper Collins (Pymble, New South Wales, Australia), 1996.
Route 66 A.D.: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists, Random House (New York, NY), 2002, published as Pagan Holiday: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists, Random House (New York, NY), 2003.
The Naked Olympics: A Guide to the Ancient Olumpic Games, Random House (New York, NY), 2004.
"insight guides" series
(Editor), Chile, APA Publications (London, England), 1991, second edition, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 1996.
(Editor, producer, and contributor) Peru, photography by Eduardo Gil and Perrottet, APA Publications (London, England), 1991.
(Editor and contributor) Iceland, created and directed by Hans Höfer, photography by Bob Krist and Perrottet, APA Publications (London, England), 1992, third edition, APA Publications (Hong Kong, China), 1997.
(Editor) Venezuela, created and directed by Hans Höfer, principal photography by Eduardo Gil, APA Publications (London, England), 1992, second edition, APA Publications (Hong Kong, China), 1996.
(Editor, and contributor) Belize, principal photography by Darrell Jones and Tony Rath, additional photography by Perrottet and James Strachan, APA Publications (Singapore), 1995.
(Editor, with Joann Biondi) Cuba, created and directed by Hans Höfer, photography by Eduardo Gil and others, APA Publications (Hong Kong, China), 1995.
(Editor) Ecuador, second edition, principal photography by Eduardo Gil, APA Publications (Singapore), 1996.
(Update editor) Melbourne, third edition, APA Publications (London, England), 1997.
Contributor to periodicals, including Islands, Outside, National Geographic Adventure, New York Times, Esquire, and London Sunday Times. Stories anthologized in Best American Travel Writing, edited by Bill Bryson, Houghton Mifflin (New York, NY), 2002, and in "Travelers Tales" series on Hawaii (1998), Australia (1999), Central America (2001), and Turkey (2002).
SIDELIGHTS: Tony Perrottet is an Australian writer and photographer who lives in New York City. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he worked as a foreign correspondent in Buenos Aires, traveling around South America for international publications to cover the Shining Path Rebellion in Peru, cocaine wars in Columbia, and gold rushes in the Bolivian Amazon. In the early 1990s he produced and edited literary/photographic travel guides published through APA Publications' "Insight Guides" series. Starting in the mid-1990s he began to concentrate entirely on narrative travel writing, commuting from his base in the East Village of Manhattan to Zanzibar and Tierra del Fuego. Perrotet's work has always been heavily influenced by his training as a historian and are in one way or another investigations of how the past survives in the present.
His first publication was Off the Deep End: Travels in Forgotten Frontiers, in which Perrottet documents his visits to places with literary connections, including Cuba, where he immerses himself in the aura of Hemingway and talks with the writer's former fishing guide, Gregorio Fuente. He lands in the Juan Fernandez Islands of the South Pacific where Alexander Selkirk was marooned, the history upon which Daniel Defoe based his Robinson Crusoe, and travels to William Faulkner's Oxford, Mississippi. Francine Prose noted in the New York Times Book Review that mixed in with Perrottet's essays are vignettes about the East Village, "which comes to seem the weirdest place of all."
Other destinations include Iceland, Australia, Russia, and Belize. A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that Off the Deep End "wanders amiably from one tropical-paradise hellhole (or one sub-Arctic hellhole) to another, returning regularly to the worst hellhole of all, Manhattan," but called it "a pleasant read for the armchair adventurer." Ann Skea, who reviewed Off the Deep End in Australian Book Review, did not see the literary link with Far North Queensland, other than the fact that Perrottet is from Australia, but noted that his "other literary links range from Dostoievksy to Darwin, from the Icelandic sagas to Gone with the Wind, from Byron to Noel Coward." Skea noted that Perrottet "writes fluently and interestingly about his journeys to remote places, as well as his life in Manhattan," but found the black-and-white photographs that separate the chapters to be "fuzzy." "Overall, however," concluded Skea, "this book is entertaining, humorous, and original."
During the Pax Romana, from 27 B.C. to A.D. 180, Europe was a peaceful place in which wealthy young Romans, mostly men, traveled and experienced the same sorts of pleasures and discomforts as do present-day tourists. Perrottet unearthed the world's oldest guidebook in the New York Public Library, which prompted him to follow an ancient journey and produce it as a modern travel guide.
In Route 66 A.D.: On the Trail of the Ancient Roman Tourists, Perrottet takes the reader along the route most traveled by the Romans, following the Appian Way, across the Adriatic Sea to Greece, across the Aegean to Ephesus and Troy, then to Rhodes and Egypt. What Perrottet found was that the Romans had used guide scrolls (guidebooks), bought cheap souvenirs and fast food, and left graffiti behind, carved into such historic spots as Ramses VI's tomb at the Valley of the Kings. They visited the same tourist attractions that have survived to this day—the Acropolis in Athens, the Colossus at Rhodes, and the pyramids of Egypt, along with the traditional Nile cruise. Perrottet made the trip armed with a backpack filled with ancient texts, a second-century highway map on a twenty-foot-long scroll, and his pregnant companion Les.
Thomas Jackson wrote in Forbes FYI that "Perrottet himself doesn't carve up any monuments, but in every other way he does as the Romans did. . . . He sleeps in a string of dives and takes the cheapest, most unreliable forms of transportation short of the iron-wheeled carts of antiquity. He is most like the Romans in his outlook, which is fatalistic and paranoid. He sees omens and portents everywhere he goes, as when he witnesses a pigeon get squashed by a speeding Vespa. This is a very bad sign. But Perrottet presses on and makes it home safe and unsmitten by ill-tempered gods."
"There's something of the impish seventh grader in Perrottet," commented Tracy Lee Simmons in the Washington Post Book World, "who never misses an opportunity to remind us that the Romans drank and copulated freely as he points out the odd wall painting or randy line of poetry. But then he invents nothing; he doesn't have to. And he provides a rich cache of information about ancient Roman life."
In a New York Times Book Review article, Maria Russo wrote that Perrottet's "insistence on seeing what the ancients saw, no matter the filth, decay, and craven commercialism obscuring most ancients sites, becomes a terrific running gag. Again and again, he beats his head against intransigent, indifferent, or simply lazy local guides." Russo called Perrottet's book "an appealing, if sometimes exhausting, mix of the zany and the arcane, juggling an energetic account of ancient Roman travel habits with a witty record of his own modern journey." "Perrottet is a nearly unflappable traveler and a terrifically funny writer," noted a contributor for the Boston Globe. "This history-cum-travelogue is as enjoyable as it is informative and twice as quirky."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Australian Book Review, August, 1997, Ann Skea, review of Off the Deep End: Travels in Forgotten Frontiers, p. 41.
Booklist, April 1, 2002, Margaret Flanagan, review of Route 66 A.D.: On the Trail of Ancient Roman Tourists, p. 1295.
Boston Globe, September 30, 2002, review of Route 66 A.D., p. 10.
Forbes FYI, May 13, 2002, Thomas Jackson, review of Route 66 A.D., p. 84.
Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 1998, review of Off the Deep End, pp. 1439-1440; February 15, 2002, review of Route 66 A.D., p. 239.
Library Journal, October 15, 1998, Linda M. Kaufmann, review of Off the Deep End, p. 88; March 15, 2002, Mary V. Welk, review of Route 66 A.D., p. 100.
New York Times Book Review, December 7, 1997, Francine Prose, review of Off the Deep End, p. 54; June 2, 2002, Maria Russo, review of Route 66 A.D., p. 8.
Publishers Weekly, March 4, 2002, review of Route 66 A.D., p. 66.
Washington Post Book World, May 26, 2002, Tracy Lee Simmons, review of Route 66 A.D., p. 15.
Route 66 A.D. Web site,http://www.route66ad.com/ (July 24, 2003).