• Published a book you want to tell us about? Uploaded a YouTube video you want to share?

    Normally you'll need 100 posts to self-promote, but with an upgraded membership you can do so with your first post.

    Find out more here: Become a Supporting Member

Penguin Travel Library and other literary travel books

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
It seems that G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday is one of the hardest books to find in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of 1969-1974.

The sense I'm getting is that its counterpart in the Penguin Travel Library may be Barbara Greene's Too Late to Turn Back. Copies are offered, all right, but never at less that upwards of $20.

I'm unwilling to let me interest in the PTL become a collector's obsession. It was just a good series of books in an attractive format, but it's nothing to get compulsive about. Who needs to feel gnawed by the desire to acquire, acquire? I have read Too Late to Turn Back (got a copy of a different edition on interlibrary loan some years ago). It was interesting, not compelling.

But it does seem there must be collectors out there; otherwise, why the high prices for this book?
 

Bick

A Member of the Forum
Supporter
Joined
Jul 26, 2012
Messages
2,104
Location
Auckland, NZ
It seems that G. K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday is one of the hardest books to find in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series of 1969-1974.
This wouldn't surprise me, on the basis that's its not a fantasy novel is it? ;)
I've read it, enjoyed it, but it ain't fantasy; it's a moral caper set in the guise of a chase/spy thriller. There are no 'fantastic' elements in it whatsoever. I wonder what it was doing in the series. :confused:
One might say, "Ah, but it's too strange to believe it to be true, and so it's weird fiction, and therefore 'fantasy'". To which I would counter, "tosh". On that basis everything PG Wodehouse ever wrote was fantasy.
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,609
Some good friends of mine are walking a portion of Stevenson's route this Summer along the Grande Route 70:
http://www.gr-infos.com/gr70a.htm
Quite unrelated to this, my wife has arranged for us all (2 adults and 3 children) to stay in a remote part of the Cevennes this Summer for 2 weeks. In a yurt.
I have ordered a new copy of Stevenson to read at ground level.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
A new word: xenotopia:

----There are also paths that are not paths: xenotopic places. [MacFarlane] coins the word "xenotopia" to describe an uncanny landscape, and for my money the part of the book that nails this concept best, and which will get you irrevocably hooked on his writing, is when he travels the Broomway, a contingent path along tidal sands between Wakering Stairs and Foulness in Essex, unearthly in both the literal and figurative senses, and said to be the most dangerous path in Britain. (This is contested, for the same reasons, by champions of the Morecambe Bay path.) Perhaps writing about such a place is like taking photographs of Venice – that is, impossible to do badly – but I doubt it. Reading the chapter will leave you with an impression of strangeness you will rarely, if ever, have encountered elsewhere.----

From a review in The Guardian of the paperback of R. MacFarlane's The Old Ways.
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,609
Just finished Patrick Leigh-Fermor's The Broken Road. Really very good. Unfinished at the time of his death, this has been edited with sensitivity. 267 pages which nearly conclude his walk to Constantinople, finishing on the shore of the Black Sea just North of Turkey. Then another 80 pages extracted from his diaries of a month spent walking around Mt Athos, where he went from Constantinople, staying in the monasteries.

I had thought that this was going to be a bit of a half-finished paste-up, but it is to all intents a finished work. Perhaps not quite up to the second in the trilogy, but terrific nonetheless.

Also read Semi Invisible Man: The Life of Norman Lewis by Julian Evans. A biography of the admired yet obscure travel writer, novelist, racing driver and camera dealer, this is a long and fascinating book.

 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,609
I have just finished The Sea Inside by Philip Hoare, which I thoroughly enjoyed. A meditation on the sea with historic, literary, and biological references. It starts in Southampton (UK) on the shores of the Solent. This is where I grew up so there is some connection. He moves on to the Isle of Wight, Cape Cod, Sri Lanka, Tasmania, New Zealand, either in or by the sea, swimming with whales and porpoises, thinking about the effect of the sea on those who live on or by it. I was not able to finish his last book Leviathan: I might give it another go now.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
I've often seen Lewis's Jackdaw Cake and other books mentioned with approval, but I've not read any of his books.
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,609
I've often seen Lewis's Jackdaw Cake and other books mentioned with approval, but I've not read any of his books.
If you want an intro to Norman Lewis, try Naples '44. One of the best books I have read in the last few years. Absolutely astonishing and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It started me off on trying to read all his other stuff. It is his account of being stationed in the newly liberated Naples as a young intelligence officer in WWII. A beautifully observed study of what happens to a highly elaborate and refined society and its individuals in a deeply chaotic situation, with practically no food or resources.

 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
Finished Travels with Charley. I suspect the chapter towards the end in which he picks up, one after the other, three people to whom he talks about racial bigotry in Louisiana is somewhat fictionalized; and throughout the book I got a bit of a feeling that he thinks he's quite a good guy. But mostly I enjoyed it quite a lot.
There's this, on The Grapes of Wrath and Travels with Charley:

http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/dust-dust_821850.html?page=1

When reading Steinbeck -- Caveat lector, for sure!
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
......Barbara Greene's Too Late to Turn Back. Copies are offered, all right, but never at less that upwards of $20.
....Found one! I'll have to reread (3rd reading, I think) Graham's Journey Without Maps and then turn to this book.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
A trilogy of books about a long walk begins with A Time of Gifts:

http://acommonreader.org/time-of-gifts-fermor/#more-6969

I finished its sequel, Patrick Leigh Fermor's Between the Woods and the Water in the wee hours and began its sequel, The Broken Road, which I'm enjoying too; and today brought Nick Hunt's Walking the Woods and the Water: In Patrick Leigh Fermor's Footsteps from the Hook of Holland to the Golden Horn, which I've begun as well -- an attempt to retrace PLF's route 80 years later.

http://acommonreader.org/walking-woods-water-nick-hunt/
 

hitmouse

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 3, 2011
Messages
1,609
Oddly enough, I was eyeing the Nick Hunt book on Amazon yesterday. I didn't get it, and would be interested to know what you think. Instead, I ordered Mani, PLF's account of his time in the Southern Peloppennese (?sp). He was a great classicist and settled there years later. I drove down there fom the uk years ago during a summer break from university. Vivid memories of crossing the bridge over the Corinth Canal.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
I've just read Peter Matthiessen's three-part contribution to The New Yorker magazine from 1961, about his travels in on the Amazon, in Brazil and Peru, etc. I believe this material appears in The Cloud Forest, which appeared as a Penguin Travel Library offering that I don't own. It seemed to me reasonably interesting at first (though I can't say I was riveted by catalogues of birds and butterflies), becoming first-rate narrative in the final installment, with its paragraphs about a terrifying descent of the Urubamba River and then the amusing imbroglio relating to a massive fossilized jawbone, which Matthiessen doesn't develop the way some writers would. If you're new to travel writing I'd recommend you try Evelyn Waugh's Ninety-Two Days first, or maybe Peter Fleming's Brazilian Adventure, for their entertainment value, but Matthiessen would be a good choice if you want more from this remote part of the world.

It was fun to read The Cloud Forest as serialized in The New Yorker, where ads for expensive liquor and fashionable dresses rubbed elbows with the columns of Matthiessen's report. I ended up saving about 35 bound volumes of the magazine when my university library discarded more of its magazine archive.

https://www.sffchronicles.com/threads/552469/
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
Arrived today, Henry James's A Little Tour in France from 1884, a reprint of the first edition, an entry in the Penguin Travel Library. I've decided to emphasize Henry James in my elective reading for a while, and was pleased when I remembered one of his books was in the PTL.henry and portia.jpg I was happy to find that the copy I'd ordered was in the original Travel Library format, with the pale green band along the bottom of the front cover and the familiar type face, etc.
 
Last edited:

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
Just finished rereading, together, their accounts of their month-long, 350-mile 1935 Liberian walk: Graham Greene's Journey Without Maps and his cousin Barbara Greene's attractively titled Too Late to Turn Back -- but the title may be misleading because she seems to have had a good attitude towards the journey and didn't beg to turn back. Their walk was pretty much without drama, no big ferocious animals, no narrow escapes from bloodlusting savages, no gun battles with slave traders, etc. They walked and walk through bush and forest, very often tired, hot, and bored. The people they met in the villages were often infected with sexually transmitted diseases and other illnesses, but were often gentle and, within their means, obliging, and the bearers and guides were generally loyal and very patient. For Graham the journey could be conceived as a regression to a simpler state of society and also as a return to childhood, with basic desires (food, rest), fears, etc. Graham became ill with, I suppose, malaria, and was sometimes carried for brief spells in a hammock, while Barbara was tired but sturdily walked on to the end. Both are good writers in their distinctive ways and I recommend my experiment of reading their books together, reading ahead in one for a bit, catching up with the other, finishing them on the same day within a few hours.

I intend before long to read Tim Butcher's recent account of his journey over the territory they covered.
 
Last edited:

galanx

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 21, 2015
Messages
398
When I was backpacking in Africa in the early 1970s, Alan Moorehead's 'The White Nile' and 'The Blue Nile' were required reading.
James Michener's "The Drifters" was good for bouts of laughter for its bizarre descriptions of life on the Ol' Hippy Trail.
My then girlfriend gave me Eric Newby's "A Book of Traveler's Tales" before I went to China for a couple of years in the 80s; excellent dipping for short reads.

Peter Matthiesen's "The Snow Leopard" is also great. Somebody earlier mentioned Vikram Seth's "From Heaven Lake"; excellent- went through the area 3-4 years later, when it was already opening.

Pico Iyer's "Video Nights in Kathmandu" gives a good view on how quickly things change and become adapted to Western influences.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
Welcome to Chrons, Galanx, and thanks for commenting. If you'd like to write some more about your travels, and the books you took along, please go ahead!

I read the Moorehead Nile books in their New Yorker serializations, which I suppose were considerably shortened. I'll have to check that Newby anthology since I have enjoyed several of his own books so much -- Slowly Down the Ganges was a virtually perfect offering. For me, The Snow Leopard should be an entry in this place --

From Way, Way Back in Your Book Backlog

-- since I bought my copy in 1979 and still haven't read it. But the next travel book I expect to read is Tim Butcher's Chasing the Devil, which, as I understand, retraces the 1935 route of Barbara Greene and Graham Greene. Do you know Charlie Pye-Smith's books about Nepal and India? But I think my first book by him will be the Ethiopian one.


Amazon.co.uk: Charlie Pye-Smith: Books, Biogs, Audiobooks, Discussions
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,139
Tim Butcher's Chasing the Devil arrived in the mail -- he is going to retrace the Greenes' route, if he can, through Sierra Leone and Liberia. He's off to a good start.
 
Top