one of the best American travel narratives since the early work of Peter Matthiessen.
Bissell, who grew up in Escanaba and is not yet thirty, is one of a group of hot young writers who have been evolving a new prose style. On the surface this style evinces an ironic detachment that is often very funny. It also abounds in pop references to everything from music to brand names that can easily confuse readers even just a little older who haven't kept up. This popular referentiality is often combined with the grammar and diction of high culture. But beneath all these flourishes and the real explanation for this new style's success is a genuine moral sensibility that usually lies outside any of the familiar political categories.
All of this comes together in Chasing the Sea to make a book that is very much in its own category. Bissell includes a lot of history, finding good stories everywhere from before the invasions of Genghis Khan to after the fall of Gorbachev. There is a good deal about Islam in central Asia, and Bissell is very good about differentiating Turkish and Arabic influences. He re-creates several of the interesting characters he encountered in his travels, particularly Rustam, his translator and friend, who comfortably throws around "dude" and "bro" while explaining Uzbeki customs.