All posts by Edie Jarolim

Edie Jarolim

About Edie Jarolim

Edie Jarolim, who has written extensively about travel, food, and pets, has reviewed books about pets and travel for A Traveler's Library. She is working on a memoir of her life as a travel writer called Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All. Read more about it at her blog EdieJarolim.com

EXCLUSIVE Travel Memoir Excerpt: Careening Around Cairo

It is not every day that we get an exclusive look at a future best-selling travel book! I am delighted and privileged to re-introduce A Traveler’s Library contributor, Edie Jarolim, who shares with you excerpts of a chapter from her work-in-progress, a travel memoir you won’t want to miss–Getting Naked for Money.

EXCLUSIVE to A Traveler’s Library

The following is an excerpt from Getting Naked for Money: An Accidental Travel Writer Reveals All.  Please contribute to the Kickstarter campaign that will allow the book to be finished and published (see badge at the end)

***

I am a terrible Jew. This I knew from an early age. At Passover seders as far back as I can remember, I would recite the story of the Israelites’ enslavement while harboring a secret love for the land of the pharaohs. “Let my people go,” I intoned, while longing to visit Egypt.

I don’t blame the Jewish holiday for my disloyalty, although, like most kids, I found the Haggadah reading interminable. I was also a bit dubious about parts of the story that it told. My favorite food on the seder plate was charosets, a mixture of apples, walnuts, and grape juice meant to represent the mortar used at forced construction sites. If you can eat the building materials, I thought, how bad could the work be?

Nor do I blame Hollywood for my Egyptophilia, even though Cecil B. DeMille cast sexy Yul Brenner as Ramses against Charlton Heston’s buff-but-boring Moses in “The Ten Commandments.” My childhood friend Sharon and I would cross our arms and mimic the bald hunk intoning, “So let it be written. So let it be done.”

Brooklyn Museum: Relief of Queen Nefertiti Kissing One of Her Daughters. Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund.
Brooklyn Museum: Relief of Queen Nefertiti Kissing One of Her Daughters

No, I blame my mother—which maybe makes me a typical Jew after all. Every few weeks, before I was old enough to go on my own, my mother would walk with me from our apartment on Lincoln Road down Empire Boulevard to Grand Army Plaza and the Brooklyn Museum. There I came to adore the hushed, high-ceiling Egyptian halls.

I’m sure the serenity of the setting and the shared time with my busy parent, sister free, were part of the appeal. But the alternate universe showcased in those rooms, the grand kingdoms, dynasties, and mysterious hieroglyphs, also grabbed my imagination. I loved the busts with elegant headdresses and exotic names like Hatshepsut–a female pharaoh!—and the clean lines of the towering statues, representing powerful beings who transcended the messiness of everyday life. I was especially drawn to the Wilbour plaque shown above of Akhenaton and Nefertiti, a rare artist’s slab, the label said. I devoured all the books I could find about the Eighteenth Dynasty couple, and about Akhetaten, the city Akhenaten devoted to his revolutionary new religion.

All this is to say, my assignment to update Frommer’s Egypt didn’t come from out of the blue.

My interest in Egypt, always on the back burner, had returned with a mummy-like vengeance when I started working at Prentice Hall Travel (PHT). I regularly tried to convince Marilyn Wood, PHT’s editorial director, that the company needed a new, more in-depth book to supplement Frommer’s Egypt—and that I was the ideal person to write it. As far as I was concerned, there could never be too many Egypt guides.

My persistence paid off. When, in the spring of 1989, about a month after I parted ways with Rough Guides, Marilyn learned that the author of Frommer’s Egypt wanted to take a break from updating her book, she asked me if I wanted to fill in. Naturally I said yes.

***

Maybe the most memorable part of my Cairo research [for Frommer’s Egypt] was visiting the great pyramid complex at Giza.

Pictures make the necropolis look like it’s in the middle of the desert—and of course it was, at one point. Now, however, Giza is a suburb of Cairo, with the pyramids fringing its outskirts. Picture the Seventh Wonder of the Ancient World at the edge of Queens.

That didn’t detract from the impact of viewing it in the direction of the limestone bluff on which the pyramids sit–or from my excitement at seeing camels, wearing colorful, ornate saddles, clustered around the imposing structures.

I am a sucker for camels. The moment I first looked into their mischievous long-lashed eyes in a crowded Tunis market, I was hooked. There was something about the unlikeliness of their shape, the contrast between their ungainly gait and their innate dignity, that spoke to me. After years of ogling these creatures at zoos, I was excited to learn that camel rides were available at the pyramids.

The camels were all standing placidly, chewing, looking bored, as I approached. The camel drivers next to them were not nearly as placid. A tourist actually seeking out a camel ride must have been a rarity, so a group of men descended on me, pleading, “Lady, you ride my camel, she is the most beautiful and gentle. For you, not expensive.”

Overwhelmed, I finally just chose a guy with a camel that didn’t look depressed and who didn’t have a whip in his hand (the guy, not the camel).

Camels are very tall and even a kneeling one is difficult to mount; the large saddle adds to the height and is awkward to negotiate. When my chosen camel driver—I’ll call him CD—helped me up, his hand grazed my breasts, not a part of the body generally required for leverage. I told myself it was an accident and tried to focus on the fact that I was at the pyramids, about to ride a camel.

After we plodded along for about two minutes, we came to a halt, my camel having decided it was time for a bathroom break and CD having decided it was time for a sales pitch. He said, “I have authentic antiquities, not expensive for you.” I nodded and smiled blandly. “You buy?” he asked. “No, thank you,” I said.

But CD was persistent and I suspected that I would be forced to sit in the midday sun, listening to his spiel and smelling camel poop until I gave in. I looked at the statuettes he had wrapped in a cloth, and finally chose a small one for a large price. “Do not let them see it at customs,” CD warned, explaining that it was illegal to take antiquities out of the country.

“Only if they’re authentic,” I wanted to say. But CD was holding the reigns to my camel, and I really wanted to get out of there. For a change, I kept quiet.

No surprise: as CD helped me off the camel, his hand grazed my breasts again. Maybe he was trying to authenticate them.

I can’t vouch for the antiquities, but this book is the REAL DEAL–travel around the world with Edie who shares adventures from camels to insider info on the travel writing business (including the getting naked part).  If you want to hear more about Edie’s adventures as a travel writer, how about becoming a publisher by helping to finance the book? Join Edie’s KickStarter campaign.
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The Steamy Side of Vienna

Destination: Vienna

Book: Freud’s Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman (NEW: July 2013)

Review by Edie Jarolim

The Kiss by Gustav Klimpt, via Wikimedia Commons
The Kiss by Gustav Klimpt, via Wikimedia Commons

Fin de siècle Vienna was a time of blossoming for artists like Gustav Klimpt, known for his lush, erotic subject matter, and for such writers as Arthur Schnitzler, who wrote boldly about physical love. But no one in in the era is better known for exploring human sexuality than Sigmund Freud, who traced most psychological problems back to early childhood imaginings on the topic.

It’s no stretch, then, to think a novel based on Freud’s life might involve sex – even Freud’s own sex life. There had been speculation for years among scholars about whether Freud had an affair with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays. Freud traveled openly with Minna, whose company he enjoyed; she was a smart and witty woman. And, in 2006, one researcher believed he found the smoking gun, as it were (sorry — it’s hard to avoid Freudianisms): He discovered that Freud signed the register of a Swiss hotel that he and Minna checked into as “Dr. Sigm. Freud u Frau” – Dr. and Mrs. Freud.

This discovery was the inspiration for the book Freud’s Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman.

I was very excited to learn about it.  I have a strong personal interest in books set in Freud’s Vienna. Siegmund Kornmehl, my great uncle on my mother’s side, was Sigmund Freud’s butcher — his shop is now part of Vienna’s Freud Museum – and I’m researching the day-to-day details of my family history. It’s not hard to find books set in the era, including fiction with Freud as a character: Irvin D. Yalom’s: When Nietzsche Wept: A Novel of Obsession, for example, and Frank Tallis’s Max Liebermann Mysteries. But such books tend, understandably, to focus on Freud’s intellectual life rather than his domestic arrangements. I figured that Freud’s Mistress would, by definition, focus on the women of the Freud household. So – full disclosure – I requested a review copy.

Freud's Mistress

The press release that accompanied the book is breathless:

Inspired by one of the most controversial and consequential love affairs in modern history, bestselling authors Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman have fashioned a page-turning novel of passion and betrayal – not only between a husband and wife, but also between sisters. Drawing on recently discovered documents and deep research into the flamboyant, pulsating world of fin-de-siecle Vienna, the authors combine known facts with compelling fiction to tell the story of Sigmund Freud’s intimate relationship with his sister-in-law, Minna Bernays, who lived with him and his wife Martha, for more than 40 years.

Oy.

Sigmund Freud, 1921, by Max Halberstadt Is that a smoldering look?
Sigmund Freud, 1921, by Max Halberstadt
Is that a smoldering look?

But, okay, though I am used to more scholarly, less hyperbolic approaches to historical fiction, I decided to accept Freud’s Mistress on its own terms – as a fun diversion with an interesting, authentic setting. I was also willing to suspend disbelief on the book’s central premise, that Freud and his sister-in-law had an affair (but see Freud’s Butcher, Did Freud Have Sex With His Sister In Law?  for an analysis of this question) and to grant that the sequence of many events had been rearranged to fit the story.

But I wasn’t expecting to find some errors in background that are real howlers. At one point, for example, Minna helps her mother – an Orthodox Jew – prepare a dinner that includes roast chicken with liver and “sweet and sour green beans drenched in butter nestled next to chunky sour-cream potatoes.” Anyone with even a basic knowledge of Judaism knows it’s forbidden to mix milk (butter, sour cream) with meat (chicken and liver).

A larger issue for me is that book’s sensibility seems anachronistically modern – and not very anchored in Austria.

Take the scene where Freud gives Minna cocaine. There’s no question that Freud used the drug; he was a big proponent of it for a time, though he ultimately renounced it. (It’s a sad testament to the addictive properties of nicotine that Freud was able to kick his cocaine habit but was never able to give up cigars.) But even aside from the fact that Freud had already disavowed the use of cocaine by the time that Minna moved in with his family (1896), Freud used it for its supposed health benefits and ability to allow him to work more effectively – not as a recreational drug or a tool of seduction.

The book’s description of the complementary use of opiates by Freud’s wife, Martha — who also doses her children with them —  is interesting. Martha is a big fan of “Mother Baily’s Quieting Syrup,” described as “one of the most popular laudanum pain relievers.” Given the British ties to the Chinese opium trade, it’s possible that these products were imported to Vienna under their original names – but that would have been a detail I’d have been interested in learning. And the examples that the authors give for those known for using the drug are all English-speaking literary figures: “Lord Byron, Keats, Edgar Allen Poem, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Elizabeth Barrett Browning” (p. 87). Were there no famous Viennese – or even German – users of laudanum? Minna later refers to Heathcliff, from Wuthering Heights — an English book published nearly 50 years earlier and unlikely to have been read in Austria.

Vienna, 1900 via Wikimedia Commons
Vienna Burgtheater, 1900 via Wikimedia Commons

Inexplicably, although they spent three years researching the book, Mack and Kaufman didn’t visit Vienna, instead going to the Freud Museum London, Freud’s home only in the last year of his life (though his office was re-created there). Perhaps that helps explain the frame of reference.

Finally, there’s the character of Freud. He is less a fully-fleshed man with a personality of his own than a foil to Minna — and a bit of a cad. He also seems to exist in part to present his nascent theories of psychoanalysis.

That said, his ideas are presented in a clear, interesting way and the book captures one important aspect of Freud’s character that makes his treatment of Minna seem plausible: That he is a man of deep, if sometimes fleeting, enthusiasms.  All in all, this book is unlikely to reveal much that is new to anyone who has read a lot about Freud’s Vienna — and about Freud. But I found myself getting caught up in the story of an independent woman who is unwilling to settle for a marriage for the sake of convention– and who has the misfortune of having to compare all the men she meets with the most interesting guy in town, who happens to be married to her sister.

 

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Pet Travel Book Club Goes to the Meadowlands

Pet Travel Book Club

Book: Dog Walks Man: A Six Legged Adventure


Where: The Meadowlands, New Jersey

Review by Edie Jarolim

 

 

Meadowlands New Jersey
Meadowlands New Jersey

Brooklyn was never known for its rural landscapes — though there are many of them, if you know where to look — but when I was growing up there I knew of a place that made my hometown seem pristine: The Meadowlands. The vast, swampy section of northwest New Jersey, a wasteland that you could see from Manhattan, had a reputation as a dumping ground for everything from toxic chemicals and refrigerators to — we believed — dead bodies, possibly even that of teamster Jimmy Hoffa. Continue reading Pet Travel Book Club Goes to the Meadowlands