Wilson, Jason. The Andes: a cultural history. Oxford, 2009. 266p bibl indexes afp; ISBN 9780195386356 pbk, $16.95. Reviewed in 2010apr CHOICE.
Wilson (emer., Latin American literature, University College London, UK) discusses South American Andean culture through the lens of literature, with a particular focus on novels and travel writings. He begins his exploration of the world's longest mountain chain in Cuzco, Peru, the heart of the ancient Inca empire and then heads north to Ecuador before turning south to Chile and Argentina and then north again to Venezuela ("where the Andes meet the Caribbean"). Along the way, Wilson focuses on the mountains almost as much as the people. Approaching the Andes from a literary perspective--rather than through direct personal observations or standard academic research--results in a rather superficial study more appropriate for casual readers--for example travelers to the Andes or secondary-school students--than for an academic audience. Although based on an impressively broad reading of literature on the Andes, the book has no footnotes and repeatedly wanders off into distracting digressions. More disturbing for an academic audience is Wilson's tendency to emphasize the exotic nature of the Andes rather than to lead the reader to a deeper understanding of the region's peoples and cultures. Summing Up: Optional. General readers and public libraries only. -- M. Becker, Truman State University
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