traveled widely in Concord.
For years Chatwin labored on a book about nomads until he realized the paradox
of such a project: writing a book means sitting on your ass. Luckily (for
us), he contracted a rare near-fatal disease in China and was able to
put the finishing touches on this extraordinary description of Australian
Aboriginal culture and the benefits of travel (especially walking) in general.
In addition to his notebooks, Chatwin also carried a camera. This lush
Cinemascopic coffee table book of color photography demonstrates the
exceptional eye that kept him employed as a Sotheby's art buyer before he
quit and embarked on his travels.
Roumanian-born poet and brand-new driver Andrei Codrescu hops in a mint red
'68 Cadillac and journeys with film crew from Ellis Island to the Golden
Gate, making stops in a ravaged and abandoned Detroit, a moving and shaking
Chicago, the New Age and Survivalist supermarkets of the southwest, the neon
kitsch of Vegas, and finally the odd peace and stability of San Francisco,
where Codrescu notes, "From here on out there is nothing but ocean. You can't
run any farther. You must turn around to face yourself." Perhaps because
he himself is a bit eccentric, Codrescu never condescends to or disparages
his subjects, remaining true to his observation that "what keeps us together
is precisely the awed awareness of our differences...."
Towards the end of the book, Codrescu interviews City Lights founder
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (an interview which didn't
make it into
the film version, by the way) who compares Henry
Miller's and Kerouac's cross-country roadtrip accounts,
The Air-Conditioned Nightmare and
On the Road, respectively: "...Miller was more focused
on the reality of America whereas Kerouac was off in his Catholic consciousness
more. When you read On the Road closely, you see he really wasn't
observing the reality in front of him." Other than occasional nostalgic
flashbacks to the '60s, Codrescu is genuinely engaged and surprised by what
he finds at the well-lit fringes of American society at the end of the 20th
century and describes it all with journalistic acuity and poetic flare. A
must for anyone who's done or is dreaming of doing the transcontinental
The Home Planet
Political boundaries are dissolved by a moon's-eye view of Earth to create
bold visions of the planet through 150 color photographs culled from the
American and then-Soviet archives. The pictures are allowed to speak for
themselves, with only tiny captions describing locales and weather conditions.
Commentary is provided solely by eloquent quotes from astronauts of 18 nations
which are shown both in original language (be it Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese,
Hindi, Mongolian, French, German, Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian, Polish, Czech,
Bulgarian, Dutch, or Russian) and English translation. The message is simple--we
are all citizens of the same global nation.
Conceived and edited for the Association of Space Explorers, no earthling
will be unmoved by the views, both photographic and verbal, regarding our
home. From desert to arctic, ocean to breadbasket, this book will delight
anyone who's ever looked outside an airplane window to marvel at the forms
The Further Inquiry
"Are you on the bus or off the bus?" That was the crucial question posed
by proto-hippies Ken Kesey, Neal Cassady and their band of Merry Pranksters
who toured the country in the original Magic Bus on the first Magical Mystery
Tour, most famously recounted by Tom Wolfe in
The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. In The Further
Inquiry, Kesey examines the trip 25 years after the fact through
a surreal courtroom drama. While the text itself is not as engrossing as
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Kesey's first book),
devotees of Beat will find the bus transcript snippets of interest and the
layout and full-color pages throughout make this big bad hardback a
treasure worth hunting.
With color photographs, film stills, and other enhanced imagery, the book
is a visual feast with many whimsical touches, including a black-and-white
flipbook movie of a dancing Cassady in the right margin. It is less an inquiry
than a celebration.
Patagonian Express by Train through the Americas
Theroux boards a commuter train in Boston, then transfers and switches his
way all the way by passenger rail to southernmost Argentina. An enviable
ride wittily and vividly described. Do you love the train?
I do. Things I like
about this book: the snatches of poetry; the glimpses of notebook entries;
the frankness and smalltalk avoidance when encountering strangers; the incidental
lyricism of the descriptions; the inclusion of brief reviews and glosses
on what he is reading; the long rolling narrative filling the distance between
Boston and Esquel, Argentina; the focus as narrow as the tracks he rode which
opens on grander vistas through which awareness passes.