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.
September 29, 2016
The Swiss Family Perelman
By S. J.Perelman. Drawings by Hirschfeld. Penguin, 1950, 213 pp.
There are travelers who write and there are writers who travel, and S. J. Perelman falls decidedly in the latter group. A humorist who, from the ‘30s on, wrote for many publications—most notably, the New Yorker
—he was known for his unusual, quite wonderful prose. Whatever pleasure he took in his adventures, which he generally described as hilariously miserable, he clearly loved to write about them, and his prose, sentence by sentence, is sardonic, filled with word play, manic, and syntactically splendid.
Like Westward Ha! Around the World in Eighty Clichés,
which I reviewed in August, The Swiss Family Perelman
is a wild romp of a trip. (more…)
September 21, 2016
The Endangered Species Road Trip: A Summer’s Worth of Dingy Hotels, Poison Oak, Ravenous Insects, and the Rarest Species in North America.
By Cameron MacDonald. Greystone Books, 2013, 216 pp.
Dismayed that, after years of teaching, he has become an armchair biologist, a “cut-and-paste biologist at best,” Cameron MacDonald revives an old dream: to travel the continent to observe endangered species. But when he first conceived of the plan, he was single and childless. Now married, he has both a toddler and an infant. Nonetheless, he bravely sets forth, the whole family in tow, including even the dog, who, he says, is too neurotic to leave in anyone’s care.
The map of Cameron’s journey from his home in Vancouver, Canada, is determined by the 34 endangered species he hopes to see. (more…)
September 7, 2016
Roughing It in the Bush or Life in Canada
By Susanna Moodie. With a New Introduction by Margaret Atwood. Originally published 1852. Virago/Beacon Travelers, Beacon Press, 1986.
In the 1830s, thousands of people—lured by promises of fertile soil, a mild climate, cheap goods, and minimal taxes—emigrated from England to Canada. They “thought that they had only to come out to Canada to make their fortunes,” writes Susanna Moodie, “almost even to realise the story told in the nursery, of the sheep and oxen that ran about the streets, ready roasted, and with knives and forks upon their backs. They were made to believe that if it did not actually rain gold, that precious metal could be obtained…by stooping to pick it up.”
Moodie, who emigrated to Canada with her husband and baby daughter in 1832, aims to tell it like it really was: poor soil, a brutal climate, illness, goods that might be cheap but were, on remote farms, unobtainable, and hard toil that, after 7 years in the backwoods, had sprinkled her hair with grey, rendered her “person…coarse,” and left her looking double her age. (more…)
"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.
“An impressively insightful, deftly written, accessibly articulate, expertly knowledgeable, and decidedly analytical survey of…book reviewing today.”
–Midwest Book Review
“Captivating stories in an anthology of epistolary fiction from the last 50 years.”
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