Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Travelling With Writers

Time Travel

Theroux on Train
Paul Theroux on a train, doing what he does.

An article, by Dan Piepenbring, in The Paris Review looks at the art, so to speak, of travel writers, that is, writers who write about their thoughts and views while traveling through different geographical locations. It's a type of time travel, and the best writers can provide the reader, far way and years later, an impression of a place.

Piepenbring writes:
What do Paul Theroux, Ryszard Kapuściński, Peter Matthiessen, and Jan Morris have in common? All four have advanced the art of travel writing, or writing that foregrounds a sense of place. And over the years, all four have been interviewed at 92Y’s Unterberg Poetry Center, where The Paris Review has copresented an occasional series of live conversations with writers—many of which have formed the foundations of interviews in the quarterly. Now, 92Y and The Paris Review are making recordings of these interviews available at 92Y’s Poetry Center Online and here at The Paris Review.

As yet another cold front shunts frigid air in our direction, it’s especially nice to hear smart people talk of exotic climes and faraway places. So you can listen to Paul Theroux, who spoke to our beloved founder, George Plimpton, in December 1989:

I came from, not a small town, but basically not a very interesting place. I felt that the world was elsewhere and that nothing was every going to happen to me, or that I wouldn’t actually see anything, feel anything, any sense of romance or action, or that my imagination wouldn’t catch fire until I left home. So it was very important for me not to rebel but simply to get away, to go away …
I would have added John Steinbeck's Travels With Charley (1962) to the list; strictly speaking, Steinbeck was not a travel writer but a novelist, yet this particular work is wonderful. In The Atlantic article (August 1962), Edward Weeks writes one salient fact that says something about how writers are viewed in America, even one as famous as Steinbeck: "Incidentally, in his passage of over 10,000 miles through thirty-eight states, he was not recognized even once."

You can read the rest of the article at [ParisRev]