Reviewer Tom Pope: Tom is a writing teacher and fiction coach who strives to spark the imagination. As a teacher, he works with tutoring services to help students organize essays and understand literary elements like the point of view. As a fiction coach, he aids authors to develop characters, brainstorm conflict pacing and design worldbuilding.
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Author: Stefany Holmes
Travel Log or Culture Shock?
When you read Stefany Holmes you may either be ecstatic with laughter at humorous exaggerations or you may be vastly disappointed by a lack of character development. But maybe the real character is Las Vegas itself. That’s all right and if Holmes wanted to write a destination piece for a city, she succeeded by displaying the ins and outs of little known details about the glitz capital of money and gaming.
But the advance notice mentioned a character’s culture shock by moving from Atlanta to Las Vegas. Usually that means the character responds to everyday experiences by contrasting them with a previous lifestyle. Readers could view a difference from her previous twelve years living in Atlanta and some of its "transitional” neighborhoods, a word used by the copy. I must be looking for another book.
As a travel writer, Holmes thrills you with a banter reminiscent of Aaron Sorkin and throws in scenarios in a manner of Larry David. She whisks you by the hand as she floats from one casino to party to meeting new people like Frederick and his “tuxedo cats,” or Nancy who wins at cards so much she’s called a “circuit grinder.”
Yet Holmes greatest travel quality is getting inside the behind-the-scenes look at the Cannery’s open air amphitheater or that night clubs uphold a rigid dress code unlike the tourist accepted ware found in the rest of the city. Unlike many travel pieces that fail to mention other activities outside of the main destination, Holmes travel book brings readers into the activities in outlying areas, giving hints at best times to go and what food to expect. She even gives information about the Las vegas airport.
Holmes raises interesting planning thoughts that develop through dilemmas of people who move. What does it take to find housing, or deal with local DMV oddities to obtain an auto license? How does one navigate through the new place to find food or supplies?
Maybe a larger issue is her character’s wealth. While the character never mentions an income status, the person never seems to have real dollar problems compared to the average person who might move. She almost happily changes fancy gear and finds herself at another casino, or party. Maybe the changes she goes through are important to a Kardashian life style.
However, I kept looking for some display of a deeper culture shock. Holmes character thrives in her new city even though she spent twelve years in Atlanta. She dives into new outfits for events, shifts agendas depending on the type of fun for the night, and she adjusts when an evening turns bad because she’ll make the most of the fun. Where’s the shock?
Shock could occur when the character feels lost within the tall high-rise buildings and flood of people. Or when the character tries to find a bond with a slower pace of life, only to become quested by a hurricane of people streaming into a slot machine world. How would the character struggle to fit in? Holmes character, on the other hand, thrives with the love of being in the hub of activity.
Holmes does refer to Atlanta, but not to draw comparisons with Las Vegas as much as to set up a new Las Vegas anecdote. A comment about recycling policy differences between the two cities hardly qualifies as a contrast. The difference in humidity between the two cities could be thought of as a yawn compared to some obvious cultural differences.
The unique history of the small communities in Atlanta with a Civil Rights history could contrast with the western flavor of Las Vegas. But Holmes seems satisfied to simply mention a sentence or two about Atlanta and then segue to another great find she discovered in Las Vegas. I wondered about the multicultural changes from the African American community in Atlanta as compared to the growing Latino community, which supplies many of the workers in the service and hospitality trade of Las Vegas.
A chapter called Cinco De Mayo might confuse readers between Holmes’ need to find an auction and the ethnic holiday. Her plans for Cinco de Mayo lie in the background as she mentions having a siesta and sipping a Corona. But I would have liked to discover which events celebrated the Mexican victory during the Franco-Mexican War.
Holmes gives wonderful details about other entertainment besides those of the spinning wheels and card tossing. She describes La Cage’s concert as she took 22 pictures with her cell phone. How could we know that the concert people encouraged picture taking if we didn’t find that out with a travel piece?
But I wondered about other events she no longer saw in Atlanta. How did those events differ? Would Atlanta have offered more theater for plays compared to acts in clubs?
Holmes title of Gone with the Whim might portray her character. The flighty aspect of flowing from one party to another casino while almost forgetting the old home in Atlanta could explain the thrill of the fast-paced life style. The yearning for new adventures each second could demand the lavish details of the new city. So Holmes’ book works well for a travel piece. For a contrast dealing with culture shock — I raise my eyebrows.
Follow Here To Purchase Gone with the Whim: Leaving the Bible Belt for Sin City