Goat Trees: Tales from the Other Side of the World
by David Rozgonyi
Wolverine Farm Publishing
A long time ago, I interviewed a band from Detroit who had a few releases on tiny labels and toured constantly. We were talking about the normal rock-and-roll topics when all of a sudden one guy stopped cold and said, “You know, travel is better than drugs!” He elaborated that being in a band gave him the chance to go places, meet people, and experience things that he never would have if he’d played it safe and taken a 9-5 job.
That musician would have found a soul brother if he’d run across David Rozgonyi in his wanderings. Rozgonyi was born in Libya to Hungarian parents and has spent a good deal of his life backpacking around the world. In his travels, Rozgonyi spent extended periods living with locals, really getting to know people and places. His experiences form the basis of Goat Trees: Tales from the Other Side of the World, a collection of fiction that gets at deeper truths about locales than conventional travel narratives. Rozgonyi’s stories often hang in the air like mirages. His writing conjures the semi-hallucinatory feeling of driving through the shimmering desert haze in a steaming car without air-conditioning. We find ourselves in places where goats climb trees and young boys hustle tourists for change in bazaars. We ride in trains with people we can’t talk to and get lost in northern woods. In Rozgonyi’s tales, we can almost feel the heat, smell the curing hides in a tannery, and hear the buzzing insects on a humid Cambodian night.
A common theme running through Goat Tales is the power of human contact. As Americans, we’re often intimidated by (and therefore afraid of) people who don’t look like us, who don’t speak our language, and live in places that don’t look like suburbia. If we allow ourselves to be open to the possibilities, there is an endless world of pleasant surprises awaiting us. A chance meeting with traveling soldiers turns into an impromptu feast. The annoying hustler turns out to be a charming guide. A hedonistic beach escape leads to a spiritual awakening. It’s all out there waiting for us and Rozgonyi takes us there in tales that feel like dreams.
There is one truly unique element to Goat Trees. Rozgonyi encourages readers to enter a Travel Mate Contest. He asks readers to submit a 150 word essay on where they want to go and why. One of those folks will get the chance to travel to their selected destination with Rozgonyi. Are book reviewers allowed to enter?