Thursday, September 20, 2007

adventure books

Some people, when they travel, choose books to suit their destinations. I don’t do that myself, but on my first trip to England when I was 20, I did have Tess of the D’urbervilles along, and remember how much the landscape added to my experience of the book. I remember in fact being skeptical about Tess, but once I started, the story mixed with the atmosphere of England was true transport.

Other people have a pet book they can’t leave home for a long period without. For me it’s the marvelous Random Book Of 20th Century French Poetry, edited by Paul Auster. Reading this book is like finding a beach where the seashells washed onto shore are in some way particular and, if not beautiful, fascinating. But usually both.

Otherwise, following my trip, bookwise and worldwise I’m glad to report all is not lost. Even if you find yourself marooned bookless at a foreign airport, it’s likely the bookstore will have a palatable title. I was surprised, but there I was, 4/5ths through Kolyma Tales when I started worrying what I’d do if I became stranded. But the rinky-dink bookshop in Zurich Airport actually had among its English selection two Hemingway books. Two Paul Austers! The World According to Garp. Siri Hustvedt’s What I Loved (which I intend someday to read). Martin Amis. Richard Ford’s The Lay of the Land. Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. And a couple WWII history titles that were actually interesting. Of course it was mixed in with much “Chicken Soup” and “How To Achieve High Tech Hallelujah.” And mysteries galore. Anyway, I didn’t buy, but left with a some faith restored, since judging by what I saw, proably 25% of readers are actually interested in good reading, not just whiling away the hours.

Song of the Day: Ebben? Ne Andrò Lontana, from La Wally

Thanks to Niff for the Sparrow


Peter said...

I remember my first time on Britrail in my 20's reading (for the first time) The Great Gatsby.

When I was 13, a waiter was aghast (or pretended to be) when I ordered a hamburger at Fisherman's Wharf on our grand family trip.

Dick said...

We're so acustomed to witnessing only those aspects of life dominated by moronic dumbing down that we tend to miss the real phenomenon of a massive increase in the reading of books of real substance. It's as if there's a sense at all levels of a need to compensate for the guilty pleasures taken in front of the TV screen!

SarahJane said...

I like it when I open a book I've read and remember where I was when I was reading it - of course if the setting was memorable. That's nice. I hear the mansion on Long Island that inspired Gatsby's mansion is crumbling, btw. Family squabbles, wills, etc. Apt, no?

Dick -
So good to see you! Read your blog today and glad of your good news.
Yes, dumbing down gets way more press. It's shoved down our throats. Every time to Yahoo for my mail there's some celebrity scandal lighting up the screen. Basta!

(my verification word is "zesnau." Wow! that's a beautiful accident.)

Liz said...

Hi Sarah,

I remember being in Vietnam reading Karen Miller's 'Hitch-hiking through Vietnam'...I came to a part where it was describing how the train driver on the only North-South route let her take over at the controls for a while - boy was that eerie as I was on that self-same train at the time...

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