My aim on TraveLit is to introduce readers who share my love of travel literature to good books they may not know about. Mostly classics, some new, the books cover travel in its many forms, from exploration to tourism. Along with reviews, TraveLit also brings together provocative, entertaining travel quotations and reader recommendations. I welcome comments on the readings, the reviews, the quotations, or the fascinating enterprise of travel itself.

TraveLit--A blog about travel literature

Even with the best of maps and instruments, we can never fully chart our journeys.

Book Review

February 27, 2014

Unbeaten Tracks in Japan
By Isabella Bird. First published in 1880 and reprinted in many editions.

A lady an explorer? A traveller in skirts?
The notion’s just a trifle too seraphic.
Let them stay and mind the babies, or hem our ragged shirts,
But they mustn’t, can’t, and shan’t be geographic.
Punch (1893)

In Britain, where they take their travel seriously, serious travel was long considered a male province, even after women had crossed the borders. During the Victorian era the number of serious women travelers surged, yet as late as 1893—not long after Isabella Bird had returned from exploring Persia, and Kate Marsden from traveling Siberia—the Royal Geographical Society was heatedly debating whether women could qualify as explorers and, perhaps more to the point, as Society members.

The furor over female membership—nicely mocked in the above limerick from Punch--is described with wry humor by Dorothy Middleton in Victorian Lady Travellers. “Throughout,” she observes, “the controversy generates that flavour of ‘The Ladies! God bless 'em!’ so typical of assemblies of Englishmen when called upon to take women seriously.” (more…)

Book Review

February 21, 2014

Ramage in South Italy
The Nooks and By-Ways of Italy: Wanderings in Search of Its Ancient Remains and Modern Superstitions

By Crauford Tait Ramage. Edited by Edith Clay, with an introduction by Harold Acton. Academy Chicago Publications, 1987, 232 pp.

Through the nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth, South Italy was an isolated region, relatively unknown to the outside world. Brigands, malaria, political instability, a dearth of accommodations and passable roads rendered the area—once the most civilized part of Italy—inaccessible to all but the hardiest explorers. (more…)

Book Review

February 19, 2014

Coasting.
By Jonathan Raban. Harvill Press, 1986, 304 pp. (Vintage, 2003)

To some degree the traveler is always an outsider. For the travel writer this poses a risk: there are journeys where he never gains entry; his account is that of a stranger in a land he doesn’t understand. Yet it can also work to his advantage: the very detachment of being an outsider can serve to sharpen his perceptions and observations. (more…)

Travel Quotation

February 2, 2014

“Worldwide travel is not compulsory. Great minds have been fostered entirely by staying close to home. Moses never got further than the Promised Land. Da Vinci and Beethoven never left Europe. Shakespeare hardly went anywhere at all―certainly not to Elsinore or the coast of Bohemia.”
―Jan Morris

Selected Works

Travel Memoir
"Loved this book, which appears to be but is more than an account of an anthropological expedition, more than a travel book, more than a memoir."--Barbara Beckwith, author of What Was I Thinking?: Digging Deeper into Everyday Racism, barbarabeckwith.net.
***
"It is undoubtedly the best written account of, and reflection on, fieldwork I have read, and --perhaps -- the best book on fieldwork (period) I have come across. --Joel Savishinsky, Professor of Anthropology (Emeritus), Ithaca College, author of Trail of the Hare.
Nonfiction
“An impressively insightful, deftly written, accessibly articulate, expertly knowledgeable, and decidedly analytical survey of…book reviewing today.”
Midwest Book Review
Anthology
“Captivating stories in an anthology of epistolary fiction from the last 50 years.”
Kirkus

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