Idiot-ic Commentary

The following links, reviews and articles will enable you to obtain additional information about Joel Stratte-McClure and his books “The Idiot and the Odyssey II: Myth, Madness and Magic on the Mediterranean” (2013) and “The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean” (2008):

Check out ongoing Idiot-ic Reaction videos to Joel’s second  amazing travel book.

Listen to Nancy’s Bookshelf (April 2013) on Northstate Public Radio @

Read The idiot’s interview with Bonjour Paris (February 2013) @

The Idiot was featured in California’s Enjoy magazine in March 2013 and you can read it here:

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And then there is:

The Conversation Hour, Australian Broadcasting Company (Interview)

“The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean” website

“The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean” Facebook group page

Buy “The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean” on

Interview with Terrance Gelenter in “Paris Through Expatriate Eyes” in Paris, France.

Interview with Debra Eckerling at “Write On!” in Los Angeles, CA.

Joel Stratte-McClure speaks about The Idiot  on “The Conversation Hour” (Australia)

Column by Marc Beauchamp in the Redding Record Searchlight (California)

Review by Anneli Rufus in the East Bay Express (California)

Review by Robert Speer in Chico News and Review (California)

Nancy’s Bookshelf Show and her interview with  Joel Stratte-McClure on  Public Radio 91.7FM  Chico & KFPR 88.9 Redding (California)

Review by Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)
From The Sydney Morning Herald Traveller Section Weekend Edition, Armchair Journey “The Idiot and the Odyssey” Joel Stratte-McClure Fast Thinking, 358 pp, $24.95

“This is one of those seductive books that, as you read, slowly insinuates itself into your consciousness and becomes more and more compelling and entrancing.

The premise is simple. As Stratte-McClure explains: “I’m in the midst of existential self-examination that, following a divorce and general weariness after 30 years as a working journalist, has me wondering where I’m going and why.”

Or, in more detail, after his marriage of 20 years collapses, Stratte-McClure, a US citizen who has lived in France for three decades, decides to clear his head by walking around the Mediterranean.

He is accompanied, at least for part of the journey, by his dog, Bogart, and a copy of Homer’s Odyssey, which he quotes regularly. It is a journey of the mind, the body and the soul.

It is also a reminder that a leisurely stroll, even if it does involve walking thousands of kilometres, is a wonderful opportunity to see and experience different cultures and to think about your own life.

In reality, Stratte-McClure doesn’t walk around the Mediterranean. He walks along the coast of France, Spain, Morocco and then up the western coast of Italy. That is not really the point.

Stratte-McClure belongs to a generation that was entranced by the road journeys of Jack Kerouac and Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance). These were journeys where the landscape and the exploration of the author’s psyche were blended artfully.

Stratte-McClure has done the same thing. It is a high-wire literary act that is always in danger of collapsing into pretentiousness but Stratte-McClure is so knowledgeable about the paths he walks and so sensitive to the history and landscapes around him that what he produces is not only a interesting travel book but a compelling story about a simple attempt to overcome a midlife crisis and make some sense of the world.”

Review by Toni Whitmont at Booktopia Buzz (Australia)

“American Stratte-McClure is that rare bird among writers who can write a memoir that addresses the universal without sounding pompous or self-indulgent. Here is a man who tackles the most fundamental subjects with wit and profoundity in equal measure.

In the midst of a mid-life crisis of seemingly epic proportions, Stratte-McClure, an ex-pat American living in the south of France, put on his hiking boots and strode out, in the footsteps (sort of) of his childhood hero Odysseus. In fact, serial hiker Stratte-McClure determined to walk around the Mediterranean as close to the coast (and regrettably occasionally falling off the edge of the coast) as possible. On his way he made a fine fist of walking meditation while meeting his fair share of demons and temptresses, gods and monsters.

The Idiot and the Odyssey is the result. Described as Eat Pray Love for men, it is Stratte-McLure’s account of that journey carried out with determination, a sack full of Homeric quotes and Buddhist wisdom. It is entertaining, informative and inspirational. In fact, this book is much more than Eat Pray Love for men. It is an any-body (any age, any gender, any stage of life) book and as such , I am very happy to make it my book of the month.”

Article About Why Tom Dunlap Goes To Bed With Joel Stratte-McClure, Redding Record Searchlight (California)

Take A Journey With Shasta High Graduate

Joel Stratte-McClure first walked into my life at the local Barnes & Noble Booksellers, and now he goes to bed with me. Wait, let me explain.

Stratte-McClure is a hometown product, a Shasta High School grad who did time at Stanford and Columbia universities. He loves to read, write, walk and talk, not always in that order. His latest gig is a fun-filled book titled “The Idiot and the Odyssey.” That’s what I take to bed.

Among Stratte-McClure’s favorite pastimes is the healthful art of walking. It’s what this book is all about, circumambulating the Mediterranean Sea. A narrative by a world-renowned journalist, this one holds my interest and my humor. Yes, I’m still reading my way through it, and laughing along the way.

My original plan was to finish the book before sharing any of this adventure, but I just couldn’t keep it a secret any longer. After all, the  tome is more than 350 pages in length and that could take me until Christmas. You need to get started well before that. Right from the start, this amounts to great reading whether you graze word to word or gulp the pages fast.

I can’t vouch for today’s standards, but when I was shuffling through Shasta High back in the 1950s, some teachers required their students to read two famous classics: “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” written by a Greek named Homer. These epic poems relate to the era of the eighth and ninth centuries B.C., including the Trojan War and the siege of Troy. They chronicle heroic quests and sweeping journeys that have held readers in suspense for centuries.

A love for walking and the enchantment of the Mediterranean aside, there are other reasons behind this book. A spiritual bottoming-out and a recent divorce, to name but two, had led to this journal of a wayfaring mind in a Mediterranean setting. The author is no stranger to this region having lived in Paris and raised a family in the south of France.

So, with the fresh idea of hoofing it completely around the Mediterranean seaboard, he set forth from Antibes, France, on a New Year’s Day, wrapped in the comfort that comes with familiarity in the lay of the land and flow of the language. If that wasn’t enough, there was always the reassurance that a tale like this had yet to be told in modern terms. He calls it the MedTrek.

This is no solitary trek, at least not always. Bogart, the author’s aging yellow Labrador retriever, a faithful pal born on the French Riviera more than a decade earlier, is by his side much of the way. And there is Delphyne, a Franco-American acquaintance who loves to walk only when she wants to. And there are other characters randomly provided by the journey.

Feel free to close you eyes as we’re at Le Cap d’Agde on the coast of France – the world’s largest nudist colony. With 40,000 naturists during  July and August, this naked city comes complete with shopping malls, grocery stores, banks, cops, doctors, theaters, restaurants and more. It’s just another coastal town, only without clothes.

Enough with nudity, allow me to slip on my reading glasses and turn the pages; the 4,400-kilometer walk around the Mediterranean has barely begun and you’re on your own.

Bon voyage.


Review in WHO Magazine (Australia)

A midlife crisis prompts the US-born, France-based author to walk around the Mediterranean coast in the footsteps of his hero Odysseus. Overflowing with facts about the countries he visited and anecdotes from his three decades as a journalist, he is an entertaining, charming and erudite travelling companion. (Four out of five stars)

Review by Marilyn Hagerty in The Grand Forks Herald (North Dakota)

“Walking The Mediterranean Is A Vicarious Pleasure”

During the holidays just past, I kept stealing away. I went on a walking trip with Joel Stratte-McClure around the Mediterranean Sea.

That is, I made my way around the sea by way of Stratte-McClure’s new book, “The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean.” The book was a Christmas gift. And although it is stuffed with ancient history, it offers enough action to keep even a lazy reader like me going.

I wanted the book because the author was born in Grand Forks. He is a grandson of the late M.M. Oppegard, who was part owner, editor and publisher of the Herald from 1929 to 1969. And from his writing, I can see Stratte-McClure is a chip off the old block. He is wise, witty and sometimes troubled.

He made his trek around the Mediterranean after three decades as a journalist in Europe, based usually in France. He has written for publications such as People and Time magazines, the London Times and the International Herald-Tribune in Paris. His book is published by Fast Thinking Book Series and recently was released in Australia. We found it on

One reviewer said readers will be glad they came along on the journey by a whimsical author and serial hiker in the midst of a mid-life crisis. Author Tony Rocca calls it a journey of discover that is both entertaining and inspirational. Another says Stratte-McClure delivers an endless stream of wit and wisdom with selfless honesty.

The book is indeed a story of the Mediterranean seaside today with flashbacks into history and reflections  on life by a person scaling cliffs, walking paths, and meeting people along the way. Stratte-McClure describes the food and the hotels where he stopped while hiking more than 2,700 miles in the course of the book. While reading in airports and my living rooms, I was transported to parts of the world where I have traveled but not really known. Author Tony Perrottet says the book provides a highly entertaining perspective of the world’s oldest and greatest journey, conjured millennia ago by Homer.

Yes, the trip by Stratte-McClure is a far cry from the poetry of “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey.” Still, some of the words are brought to life in this book.

“The Idiot and the Odyssey” begins on the French Riviera and continues on to Marseille. As he makes his way along his MedTrek, Stratte-McClure tells of nudists, Buddhists and even a fish called Joel. He walked into a cow in Spain and around 365 curves to reach the Gold Coast. During his walks, Stratte-McClure welcomed his companions including his son, Luke. Much of the time he preferred walking alone with his thoughts and meeting people along the way. He had a death-defying fall in Morocco and lost his passport and money – and his sanity – there.

Then, he marched through Monaco to Italy, giving insights on the people as he traveled along.

While his book is not intended to be a travel guide, Stratte-McClure offers advice in an addendum to his book. In it, he points out that a long-distance trek demands a balanced mental, physical and spiritual attitude to achieve and maintain the right rhythm. He writes, “Once you establish your own cadence, a 20-to-30 kilometer march will be a physical and psychological walk in the park, though many hikers tend to hit a wall between 40 and 50 kilometers.

“Once I get going I rarely stop for more than 15 minutes, even for lunch that usually consists of  fresh produce that I buy in local markets or swipe from the hotel breakfast buffet,” he says. “On the trail, I often find myself doing pushups, planks or stretching exercises to limber up and stretch while toting a heavy, or even a light, backpack.”

Stratte-McClure says it’s difficult to get lost if you just keep the sea on your left or right. It is helpful to have a map and start the day with a local geography review. Choose the right season for your hike to get both favorable weather and lowest prices. Though there’s more daylight, summer on the Mediterranean is usually too hot. Tourists are omnipresent and accommodations are difficult to find.

He continues, “If you wind up at some of the places mentioned in the book, you wont’ regret is. I think everyone should stay in a monastery, drop into a nudist camp and sleep on a beach. And it’s a kick to find a cheap hotel on the sea, rent a fairly primitive square for just a few buck and, occasionally, splurge if you’re really wiped out.”

Article by Diana Plater, Australia Associated Press

Sydney, AAP – There must be simpler – and less strenuous – ways to get over a midlife crisis following a divorce.

Walking around the Mediterranean does seem to be a bit extreme.

But American journalist and author Joel Stratte-McClure doesn’t seem to be the type to take the easy way out.

After living in France for 35 years, working mainly in Europe and Africa, his marriage to a “still-lively, still-brazen blonde” Franco-American woman broke up. So he decided to give himself a 50th birthday present and attempt the walk.

In the end, it took him 10 years on-and-off to do both the walk and write a book from it, The Idiot and the Odyssey: Walking the Mediterranean.

His main travelling companion apart from his dog, Bogart, and occasionally other people, including his son, Luke, was his copy of
Homer’s The Odyssey.

The book makes frequent allusions to the Odyssey as well as Buddhist sayings, his own alcoholism, trekking and descriptions of
the people he meets along the way.

In Sydney to promote the book, Stratte-McClure, explains an odyssey like his teaches valuable spiritual lessons such as patience and persistence.

“One of the many themes in the book is the goal is the path and the path is the goal … all these nice little Buddhist refrains that keep me going at times of woe. So I never say to myself, My God, I have 10,000 kilometres left. I always take it a day at a time and don’t stress where I am.”

He was still working while he was doing the walk, with the longest break eight months.

“I’ve walked further than I have in the book and I’ve kept as close to the sea … as possible (apart from Morocco where there was a military installation).” …I went back to one place after nine months and it was like I was there yesterday.”

Now a fit-looking 60-year-old, he’s always walked, including six week treks in the Himalayas and other countries and has been writing about these adventures for 30 years.

“The problem with a walking book is that if it’s just about walking you can sell one copy  – to your mother. This book works on, I hope, the right balance of different levels integrating eerything from Homer’s Odyssey, which has kind of been a muse of mine since I bought it in college for $6, to the various populations and cultures, historical, social happenings (of the places he visited).”

He had been told by a Buddhist monk that one of the best forms of meditation is not just walking, but walking for other people.

“After I’d walked for 30 or 40 km, at the end of the day I’d be feeling tired…and I’d invariably see somebody who would be incapable of walking, whether they were old or handicapped or whatever and it gave me a feeling of how lucky I am.”

As part of his walking meditation, he always picks up his litter, gives stuff away and tries to stay calm.

He says his book, with its title a combination of Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot and Greek mythology, has been described as Eat, Pray, Love for the male.

That bestseller, by Elizabeth Gilbert, uses the author’s divorce as a premise for her travels and spiritual journey.

And in some ways Stratte-McClure does something similar, although his book is denser and perhaps more literary. But they both share a form of self-deprecating humour.

He describes his devastation after his ex-wife came home from a five-day trip to London and informed him she had a 24-year-old male
lover, a nightclub bouncer half her age.

“The decline and demise of almost any long relationship is complicated and, as any student of Greek literature will tell you, even the gods had problems with their wives,” he writes. “But Cyclops was not as blind as I was.”

He did tell his ex-wife later that she was included in the book, but agreed to change a few aspects including her name.

His son suggested he leave the whole episode out, but as his divorce was a major earth-shattering event in his life he felt he had to keep it in, even though his daughter boycotted the whole thing.

He has since re-married and now lives in West Hollywood. His current wife, who is also a journalist, came up with the title of the book, but she too wanted her name changed.

“A guy can pick up this book to get some advice on how to proceed in life, a kid can give his father this book or read it himself…to show some of the richness that can be established between father and son,” Stratte-McClure says in his best promo voice.

“And a woman can read it for spiritual reasons or give it to her husband and get him out of the house for three or four years …that gives a whole new definition to the expression, take a hike.”

The book has a hiking addendum listing one-day to one-week walks on the Mediterranean including the Saint Tropez Seascape Stroll and Moving from Morocco into Spain.


Some reviews from around the web.Lex Hames
If you want to weave myth, magic, sharp-eyed travel writing and hilarious personal anecdote, you can’t do better than The Idiot and the Odyssey, Volume Two, by Joel Stratte-McClure. This is an uncanny tale of walking around, yes, that’s walking around the Mediterranean, while sharing secrets with the locals, seeing the sights, visiting the great monuments, quoting Plato, exploring the cave of the Cyclops, and watching the gods and goddesses of Homer’s epic bubbling up from the ancient landscape…more

This is not your normal travel book!
It’s a wonderful multimedia travelogue and a glimpse of the author’s interest in the combination of historical detail and his philosophy of life. This really is a delightful, vicarious trek around one of the world’s most beautiful bodies of water and some of its most fascinating archeological sites.

The Idiot and the Odyssey II: Myth, Madness and Magic on the Mediterranean sets the bar for travel adventure readers. Every chapter brings Joel Stratte-McClures MedTrekking adventure to life with interactive links. Follow the “Idiot” and explore places such as the Cemetery of the Capuchins, sing along with sirens, reach the summit of Mount Olympus and meet Walter Lassally where he filmed Zorba the Greek. Joel is a masterful storyteller and captures his readers as he leads us to Troy.

Gerald Rodgers
Advanced Placement English, Santa Maria High School

It’s not at all the travel memoir it purports to be. Joel Stratte-McClure’s book The Idiot and the Odyssey is a rich commentary on life, quests, and purpose, and the brazen tale of this eccentric smacks of attitude both audacious and foolhardy. Yet quite unlike that Ithacan who had himself tied to his mast so he could safely hear the siren’s songs, the ponderous hero of this story maintains unbelievable equanimity in his enviable brushes with Mediterranean Circes and sylphs, and he emerges, through his hilarity and touching humanness, the wiser and more virtuous for having listened to their
words. A marvelous narration, one breathing ancient literature into a modern and real theater, it connects myth with geography, history back with
legend, and life-affirming purpose with the old bugaboo, the concept of impossible Quest. The A.P. Program of the College Board, which has recently
adapted similar modern memoirs as grist for their essays (Alain de Botton’s works come to mind), may be well-advised to consider a similar plundering of Joel Stratte-McClure’s recount of his trek to challenge Scylla, the Cyclops, and Charybdis.² ­ Gerald Rodgers, Advanced Placement English Teacher, Santa Maria High School District (California.)