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Penguin Travel Library and other literary travel books

galanx

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Dec 21, 2015
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398
All this brings back to mind a poem by (I think!) Lord Dunsany, which I memorised 45 years ago as a 17-year-old planning to set out on his travels as soon as he turned 18 (can't find it, and Dunsany is still under copyright- damn you, Mickey Mouse.)

O you who live in cities, saw you this pretty thing?
The moon was new on Sunday, all in a silver ring
But now 'tis veiled and curious, no more a shining hoop
And the wind is in the desert and the sand is in the soup.

The wind that Allah bridles is free tonight to roam
Like camels in the evening when the caravan is home.
The wind is in the desert and the soup is full of grit
And all the cooks in London-town have not the taste of it.

I know years hence in cities, when Spring has scarce touched Spain
I'll yearn for open spaces, and long to see again
As on some vaster plant, the horizon's mighty loop
When the wind is in the desert and the sand is in the soup.
 

Extollager

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Aug 21, 2010
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6,032
I've finished Tim Butcher's Chasing the Devil. A fine book. I've enjoyed the project of rereading Graham Greene's Journey Without Maps and his cousin Barbara Greene's Too Late to Turn Back, and then Butcher's account of retracing their 1935 Liberian trail in 2009. I felt that I was entertained and also instructed by Butcher's book. I recommend reading the three books together; I read the Greenes' books concurrently, then Butcher's. However, if you're new to travel writing this might be a bit ambitious.

My start with travel book writing was actually a book about the genre, Paul Fussell's Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars, which I read 35 years ago. Since the book is lively and enthusiastic and includes plenty of excerpts, that might not be a bad way for you to get started, but probably you want to start with an actual travel book. I see from my records that, somehow, I didn't really get going to till reading Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia in Dec. 1984. About three weeks later came Journey Without Maps and then Greene's The Lawless Roads / Another Mexico. Shiva Naipaul's Journey to Nowhere was a combination travel book and investigation of Jonestown, a lot more recent then than it is now. These were followed by Peter Fleming's News from Tartary and, a little later, his Brazilian Adventure, Philip Glazebrook's Journey to Kars, and Redmond O'Hanlon's Into the Heart of Borneo. About half these are from the 1930s or so, which Fussell sees as a golden age of travel writing, the others being more recent. In early 1986 I liked Richard Holmes's Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer looking up places associated with Robert Louis Stevenson and others, which brings us to thirty years ago. Travel writing has been a dependable source of reading satisfaction and I've found the books I've read often to be worth rereading. I hope others will write here about their experiences with the genre. If you're new to it, consider trying Chatwin's In Patagonia, which got a lot of good reviews and is very readable. People who like Wodehouse might try Brazilian Adventure, which isn't a laugh-on-every-page affair but which I think might appeal to you. More easily come by will be Evelyn Waugh's Ninety-Two Days, reviewed here in The Guardian:

Paperback choice: 92 Days by Evelyn Waugh
 

hitmouse

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Jul 3, 2011
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1,529
Not strictly travel writing, but still. A blogger who tried to read a book from each of the 196 or so UN recognised countries, over the course of 12 months. Interesting project.

What I did
 

galanx

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Dec 21, 2015
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398
?? What's the Mouse got to do with it?
Disney is one of the main forces behind the extension of copyright laws

The Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) of 1998 extended copyright terms in the United States. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyright would last for the life of the author plus 50 years, or 75 years for a work of corporate authorship. The 1976 Act also increased the extension term for works copyrighted before 1978 that had not already entered the public domain from twenty-eight years to forty-seven years, giving a total term of seventy-five years. The 1998 Act extended these terms to life of the author plus 70 years and for works of corporate authorship to 120 years after creation or 95 years after publication, whichever endpoint is earlier.[1] Copyright protection for works published prior to January 1, 1978, was increased by 20 years to a total of 95 years from their publication date.

This law, also known as the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, Sonny Bono Act, or (derisively) the Mickey Mouse Protection Act,[2] effectively "froze" the advancement date of the public domain in the United States for works covered by the older fixed term copyright rules. Under this Act, additional works made in 1923 or afterwards that were still protected by copyright in 1998 will not enter the public domain until 2019 or afterward (depending on the date of the product)
.....
The Walt Disney Company lobbied extensively on behalf of the Act, which delayed the entry into the public domain of the earliest Mickey Mouse movies, leading to the nickname "The Mickey Mouse Protection Act".
Copyright Term Extension Act - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 

Extollager

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Aug 21, 2010
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Thanks for the clarification, Galanx.

I'm now rereading Philip Marsden's The Spirit-Wrestlers, travels among Old Believers and Doukhobors in the southern edges of Russia, etc.
 

galanx

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Dec 21, 2015
Messages
398
Thanks for the clarification, Galanx.

I'm now rereading Philip Marsden's The Spirit-Wrestlers, travels among Old Believers and Doukhobors in the southern edges of Russia, etc.
Interesting- is it contemporary?
 

Extollager

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Aug 21, 2010
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Marsden's book was published around 1998. I'm enjoying it but I think it's probably an example of creative nonfiction. For example, there's an amusing sequence in which Marsden goes far out in the marshes with a couple of guys who are harvesting crayfish. On the way the older one is gently teaching the younger about the rules of the group, along these lines: We don't have to follow the fasts, but we need little laws like these so that when real challenges come our way, we have developed self-discipline and will be strong enough to do the right thing. ...And all the while, they are poaching, and when they have the crayfish in the boat they cover it up. Well, naturally I wondered if that incident happened just as described; and if it didn't, what else in the book might have been "creative."

The sense I get is of a secular Englishman, curious, interested in "odd" corners of the world, who would probably never take these Molokans etc. very seriously -- or maybe wouldn't expect his readers to. He generally likes the people he meets and they seem to like him. The book's an easy read, with probably quite a bit of knowledge under the entertaining surface.
 

galanx

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Dec 21, 2015
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398
Interested in this because a large group of Dukhobors settled in Canada in the late 1800s, their emigration largely financed by Tolstoy. They were persecuted by the Czarist government for their refusal to do military service, but were welcomed by Canada which was eager to settle the Prairies. For a number of reasons their original settlement in Saskatchewan was unsuccessful- their communal landholding didn't fit in with Homesteading laws, and the Canadian prairie was too cold and forbidding for their agriculture, especially after they freed their animals and used women to pull the plows instead, and their loyalty was called into question during anarchist/red scares.

They moved to southeastern British Columbia and became mainly involved in orchards, where they could get by without animal labour (they were also vegetarians) but a radical group- the Sons of Freedom- split off and refused to have anything to do with the government, which -in violation of their pacifist principles- included arson, bombings and assassinations- the latter directed internally. They were notorious for blowing up power pylons which crossed their lands after the establishment of huge hydro-electric projects in the Rockies in the 50s. They were also noted for occasionally burning all their possessions, including their houses and clothes, to show their rejection of worldly goods- they called their nudity being 'sky-clad', providing great fodder for the media.

On the way the older one is gently teaching the younger about the rules of the group, along these lines: We don't have to follow the fasts, but we need little laws like these so that when real challenges come our way, we have developed self-discipline and will be strong enough to do the right thing. ...And all the while, they are poaching, and when they have the crayfish in the boat they cover it up.
Rejection of government, but not internal, authority- though these guys are not vegetarians, I guess.

When I was a kid in the early 60s I grew up in a very white bedroom suburb of Vancouver- we had one half-Japanese kid in our elementary school- and the preferred ethnic/racial insult was to call someone a "Dukhobor".
 

Bick

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Terrific list, Extollager, thanks for the link. I will bookmark that and see what I can read over the next few years. Some modern weighting maybe, but lots of classics too. I've read a good few of the Theroux's but there is plenty I 'ought' to read yet.
 

Extollager

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I've come upon a new (to me) travel writer, Stephen Graham (1884-1975), whose With the Russian Pilgrims to Jerusalem (1913) I've ordered (a signed edition, no less).
 

Extollager

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Aug 21, 2010
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Graham's Russian Pilgrims just arrived. The prologue stirred misgivings when I read it, but as soon as the account of the pilgrims begins, the book takes flight!
 

Extollager

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It's spring in the northern hemisphere, when a young-at-heart person's thoughts lightly turn to thoughts of travel...books.

Interminable hours of damp torpor under a mosquito net (PLF, The Traveller's Tree, p. 23.
 

Extollager

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Something I relish in travel books is references to the classic books that the travels took with them on their journeys.

In No Mercy, Redmond O'Hanlon mentions that his companion Lary (one R) is reading Our Mutual Friend (p. 90) and Martin Chuzzlewit (p. 254). Lary says: "I feel like Mark Tapley [in Chuzzlewit]: 'A touch of fever and ague caught on these rivers, I dare say; but bless you, that's nothing. It's only a seasoning; and we must all be seasoned, one way or another.'"

More examples to follow.
 

Allegra

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Oct 30, 2006
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I'm reading George Sand A Winter in Mallorca. Bought it last winter in Mallorca's long abandoned Valldemossa Monastery where in late 1838 to early 1839, Sand, her children and Chopin spent some miserable months there while Chopin was seriously ill but finished and composed some masterpieces. It seems to be an interesting account of their experience on the at the time very isolated island.
 

Extollager

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Aug 21, 2010
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Added to my PTL books Mary McCarthy's The Stones of Florence and Venice Observed.
 

J Riff

The Ants are my friends..
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Apr 11, 2010
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Sleeping in Lab
Penguin book bag, I have one. It's a cloth bag, like a shopping bag with handles, and it is black with the cool Penguin books logo onnit. It is so cool that it hangs on a hook at home ike a picture on the wall. AND - figurines of the Stanley Cup champs, my team, the Penguins o' Pittsburgh, are looking good standing next to this terrific Penguin Books bag.
 

Extollager

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Aug 21, 2010
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Ha! I don't remember seeing this one before:



Elizabeth Mavor's The Grand Tour of William Beckford.
 
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