‘Notes Of A Tourist On Planet Earth’ sounds like a title that Jules Verne might have used, or an Isaac Asimov sci-fi piece. It is neither. Notes Of A Tourist On Planet Earth, by J.D. Smith, is touted as being a collection of hilarious essays, poems and ponderings about the human species. However, I found it to be a carefully crafted collection of thoughts, many quite brilliant, but written in a style that I personally despise.
Is Smith funny? Yes, absolutely. That said, unless you have the reading comprehension skills of someone with a PHD, you’ll find reading much of the work like struggling to climb over coils of barbed wire. I highly recommend it for anyone with an IQ over 160, but warn those with ‘lower’ scores that it may cause self-esteem issues. Struggling through Notes Of A Tourist On Planet Earth was worth it, because as I said, Smith has a brilliant mind. Once you decipher his intellect by refreshing yourself with the entire contents of the latest Webster’s Dictionary, you’ll find his work an entertaining combination of Rodney Dangerfield, Woody Allen and Bill Gates.
I must admit extreme bias toward this book, not because it lacks skill, art and intelligence, which it certainly does not, but rather because I am deeply offended by writers who write as if their goal is to demonstrate their vast knowledge of the craft, rather than using their intelligence to write in a way that ‘communicates’ the wonderful art within their mind. To me, it is a literary atrocity to alienate readers by being artsy-fartsy, instead of making the finished piece down to earth and easily understood.
I realize there is an entire culture of people who spend their lives seeing who can know the most, own the most, and pee the highest on the wall, but I am not one of them. Big words, complex concepts and intense intellects are great for classrooms, but are lousy for the comfort of couches. If I have to use a dictionary to understand what I’m reading, I’m not reading it. Notes Of A Tourist On Planet Earth, by J.D. Smith, published by Cassowary Press, is a great read if you love to be wowed by intellectual cartwheels and academic comedics. It’s like Vaudeville for Einsteins and connoisseurs of fine wine, the perfect accompaniment to lifted pinkies and haughty laughter.
Had this work been written to be enjoyed by us who are less than intellectually blessed, I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. Again, Smith is an artist, of that there is no doubt. What he is not, is someone capable of communicating his brilliance effectively to people who would love his wit, if only they could understand it. I found reading Notes Of A Tourist On Planet Earth restricted its worth with literary posturing, pride and pretense. It is a great example of how something beautiful can be so over-decorated that it becomes gaudy. Hopefully, J.D. will learn to write in human speak, and someday, become a permanent resident.
J.D. Smith has published three collections of poetry, one collection of essays and one children’s book. His work has appeared in Alimentum, The Bark, Gastronomica, the environmental ezine, Grist, and the Los Angeles Times. In 2007 he was awarded a Fellowship in Poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts, and individual poems received three Pushcart nominations. He also published literary and crime fiction, and looks forward to trying more of both. His one-act play “Dig,” produced in London by CurvingRoad in 2010, was adapted for film in 2011. Smith divides his time between work and home in Washington, DC.
Book Review By: W. Lewis, Publisher at The Northern Star