I’m very tempted indeed by this reading challenge, largely for the following reasons:
1) I have, slightly over-zealously, already used up my holiday allowance.
2) I have, slightly over-zealously, already used up every penny to my name, thus precluding actual international travel.
3) The weather in London is very close to making me suicidal. A bit of escapism could be just what the doctor ordered.
Deterrents include the fact that I already have a reading list as long as this man’s arm, and will be starting a part-time MA course in a few months which will leave me very little time to read for pleasure. Is anyone else taking the plunge? Perhaps if I had someone to hold my hand…
For anyone that is tempted, may I recommend Rupert Brooke’s Letters from America and Henry Miller’s Aller Retour New York, both of which will be published by Hesperus in July of this year. In my view, the best travel writing reveals as much about its author as the place described. That’s very definitely true of both of these works, by men not famous for holding their tongues. I love the following interchange, documented by Brooke as taking place between himself and a young American during his voyage to the land of opportunity:
‘Of what nationality are you?’ he asked.
His face showed bewilderment when he heard. ‘I thought all Englishmen had moustaches,’ he said. I told him of the infinite variety, within the homogeneity, of our race. He did not listen, but settled down near me with the eager kindliness of a child. ‘You know,’ he said, ‘you’ll never understand America. No, Sir. No Englishman can understand America. I’ve been in London. In your Houses of Parliament there is one door for peers to go in at, and one for ordinary people. Did I laugh some when I saw that? You bet your, America’s not like that. In America one man’s just as good as another. You’ll never understand America.’ I was all humility.
I’m off to trim my moustache and ponder this challenge a little further…