Saturday, June 23, 2012

PART 1: The Ecclectic Traveler

My preference is for travel books devoted to a single adventure.  I started to make an exception and buy collections of travels.  Some of the books are built around a theme--the most remote outposts or others simply write a series of eclectic adventures in one book.   Here's my collection.

1.  Outposts: Journeys to the Surviving Relics of the British Empire, Simon Winchester (2004).  Winchester traveled over 100,000 miles to vestiges of the British Empire including Diego Garcia, the Falkland Islands and the most remote island on earth, Ascension Island.  Bought new.

2.  The Offensive Traveler, V.S. Pritchett (1967).  Pritchertt says he is an offensive not in the sense that he travels in a state of arrogance or complaining but that he is always observing and watching the private lives of other people where he is an outsider.  Wonderful  essays on Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran and Spain.  Bought used but can't remember where.

3.  Falling Off the Map: Some Lonely Places of the World, Pico Iyer (1994).  Iyer is considered by some as the best living travel writer.  He has a way of finding places that just don't fit in and an eye for the absurd.  Bought used somewhere.

4.  The ends of the Earth: A Jurney to the Frontiers of Anarchy, Robert Kaplan (1996).  Kaplan uses his political and historical acumen as he travels through chaotic or despotic regions of Africa, Central Asia and Southeast Asia.  Bought used State Department Bookstore.

5.  Along the Road: Notes and Essays of a Tourist, Aldous Huxley (1925).  Huxley, best know for Brave New World, started his travel book with an essay asking what is the point to travel at all.  His essays are mostly about his sampling of art, music and settings around Europe.  Bought new.

6.  Far Horizons: The Travel Diary of an Engineer, Joseph Ehlers (1966).  Inscribed by the author, "Best Wishes."  A short series of travelogues by an Engineer who traveled Alaska, Asia and South America.  Bought at the State Department Bookstore.

7.  Adventures and Escapes, edited by E.W. Parker, part of Heritage of Literature Series (1953).   Very small book with short adventures in Africa, India and military adventures.  Owners stamp, "Stephen Straker, 5 Merrick Close, Tuckahoe, NY.  Bought used at a book sale but can't remember where.

 8.  All Over the Place: Fifty Thousand Miles by Sea, Air, Road and Rail, Compton MacKenzie (1948).  Covers Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.  Written in a logbook style with foldout maps.  Bought used somewhere.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Round on the Edges, High in the Middle

I learned the hard way that Ohio was the Rodney Dangerfield of states. Telling someone you’re from Ohio was a guaranteed death-knell to any conversation. The usual response is "oh" followed by an excuse to find the bar for a refill. You may even feel you are suddenly invisible. This is because we lack distinctive identities. There’s no aura of New York sophistication or the hipness of California or Seattle or intellectual superiority of Cambridge. We can’t charm folks with lilting accents, distinctive hats and boots or entice pastoral romantics with our picturesque fall calendars (even though our less showy maples spew out more syrup than all those cute little New England states combined). We don't have in your face bumper stickers (what is it about Texas that we're not supposed to mess with?) And we don’t have distinctive, over-spiced cuisines with colorful names like "jumbuliah."  There’s just nothing flashy a Buckeye can show off to get a conversation out of first gear.  Here's a few books that I've collected to show the hidden beauty of the first Midwestern state. 

1.  Family, Ian Frazer (1994).  New Yorker contributor Frazier weaves a fascinating family from the small northern Ohio town of Norwalk, Ohio.  He turns his family story into a fascinating saga.  

2.  Winesburg, Ohio, Sherwood Anderson (1919).  Coming of age for a Midwestern boy, set in the fictional town of Winesburg (a fictional name for Anderson's boyhood hometown, Clyde, Ohio).  

3.  Ohio States: A Twentieth Century Midwestern, Jeffery Hammond.  Hammond's growing up was done in the the northern Ohio landscape of flat farmland and gritty rust belt cities.  Hammond's writing is strong enough show the idyllic side of growing up in a small town and restlessness that eventually comes with leaving.  

4.  Out of the Midwest, Johnathan T. Frederick (1944).  A collection of stories running from the western edge of the Appalachians to the Great Lakes to Great Plains.