I have two abiding interests in life, travel and literature. And I can’t help but be struck by how rarely the two intersect.
Sure, there’s plenty of writing about travel. The Sunday papers typically have a whole section dedicated to it. Any decent bookstore has an aisle specifically for travel-related publications. And websites such as this one feature prodigious quantities of travel writing, including mine.
But little if any of that writing bothers to aspire to the status of good writing, much less of literature. Which may be just as well.
I do occasionally come across writing that is both travel-related and fine—sometimes just a stray sentence, other times an extended work—and plan to note such sightings in this blog, as (I hope) a foil to the more newsy and consumer-focused entries.
As an example, and the first in the series, here’s Anthony Lane, film critic for The New Yorker, writing in the April 24 issue about the experience of air travel:
“Make no mistake: flying is a drag. For some people, it is a caldron of horrors, seething with imagined catastrophe; for the nerveless few, it is a joy, although no joy that ends up at Logan could ever be described as unqualified. For the majority of us, though, the effect of a flight is tenfold. It tires; it cramps; it dehydrates; it plays mysterious havoc with the digestion; it both clamors for alcohol and, by a nice irony, makes you twice as susceptible to its aftermath; it inflicts a combination of tedium and trepidation that most of us have not experienced since we last sat in a hospital waiting room; it places you in close, unbroken proximity to two or more strangers whose company, at ground level, you might take strenuous pains to avoid; it offers, given the location of most airports, a more extensive tour of rusty outlying districts of major conurbations than you would perhaps have chosen; it introduces you, often brusquely, to the meaning of the phrase ‘air pocket’; but—and this is the only but that matters—it gets you there.”
(Unfortunately, The New Yorker doesn’t put its full content online, so I can’t provide a link to the article.)