Before tourism there was travel,” wrote the critic Paul Fussell, “and before travel there was exploration.” This statement, from Fussell’s Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars (1980), seems uncontroversial, even banal. But he didn’t mean merely that exploration was a precondition for travel, and travel for tourism. Rather, he meant that travel was all but dead, and that the ashes of exploration had been scattered to the four winds: “Because travel is hardly possible anymore, an inquiry into the nature of travel and travel writing between the wars will resemble a threnody, and I’m afraid that a consideration of the tourism that apes it will be like a satire.”

It’s possible to read this part of Fussell’s critique as satire with a straight face, but nevertheless, it caused some offense. In The New York Times, Jonathan Raban called Abroad& ...