Thursday, January 27, 2011

First Disappointment of the New Reading Year

Nancy Pearl! What are you doing to me? I even bought your latest book because I was so sure I'd want to be writing in the margins and underlining all your recommendations for travel reading (note to Nancy - librarians shouldn't have to buy books but, yes, we do). The best part of the latest issue of Book Lust - Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers, I'm sorry to say, is the title!

I love Nancy Pearl and am thrilled that she was named Library Journal's Librarian of the Year, so I say this with a heavy heart, but I think that the "book lust" theme has worn itself out. It's time for something new. I own all the Book Lust books thanks to friends who have gifted me with them. The latest was just too light. There's no substance here, nothing to tell me why I would like a certain book. Sometimes Ms. Pearl only uses one sentence to describe a book she's recommending. That just leaves me with a little too much guess work. I can do that just by looking through our library catalog.

What I don't feel in this latest iteration is the passion that I've come to expect from the country's favorite shusher. I love the layout of the book. As a matter of fact, I'd like to imitate it but then write my own impassioned plea for travel, travel writing, and reading. The countries represented each form a chapter, in alphabetical order, naturally. Nancy then tells the reader about several titles, fiction and non, that would make good reading if you're never going to leave your couch. Ouch! What about those of us who want to live the experience? Nada. Maybe it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is?

Also decided to see what all the hoopla was about with Henning Mankell. I notice on GoodReads that my friend Maryellen is in the middle of one of his novels right now and will be curious to hear what she thinks. I decided to listen in my car but I've also make a resolution for the new year to only give books on cd one cd's worth of time before I change it for something else. Mankell didn't make the cut. Perhaps the video series is the way for me to proceed.

I decided to switch Mankell for a classic that I had never read before and I'm thrilled with the change. Steinbeck's Travels with Charley is an absolute delight. Written in 1962, you might think it was a more idyllic time and that the book might sound dated but that's not the case at all.
In fact, for those of you readers who even remember 1962, it was a very scary time. The "cold war" was the buzz word - though it certainly beats the current "forever war" - Kruschev came to the UN banging his shoe on the table - my parents discussed, in hushed tones, building a bomb shelter in the back yard and I saw the aurora borealis one night and believed we were in the midst of a nuclear war.

The author's voice is so authentic. I feel as if he's speaking only to me and as a real friend. Charley, his doggy companion on this cross-country road trip, is a person in his own right. Having made some trips in a truck camper myself, not my fondest memories, I can just visualize Steinbeck's description of the interior after a particularly jouncy day over mountainous back roads. Books, papers, and even, want to laugh? the typewriter (yes, that is dated) are strewn from one end of the little home on a truck bed to the other.

This is not a travel guide about great cathedrals and natural wonders, although these things all have their part in the book. This is a travel book about people, those we meet along the road and allow into our lives for a fleeting moment, but remember forever. This is travel writing we can believe in!


Anonymous said...

I have happy memories of reading Travels with Charlie when it was new and I was a young teenager. And then East of Eden, though I was too young to appreciate most of it. When Steinbeck died, I think I was the only one in my class to perceive him as a "best selling" author rather than as one of the old guys whose work we had to read in English. (Pablo Casals and Picasso also died around that same time.)

Sallyb said...

How lovely. I've just come home from work and admit that I hated to shut off the car. I'm listening to Travels....and it seems as timely today as in 1962 when it was written.
Some expressions may be dated and terms used are no longer politically correct but Steinbeck makes me wish I had run into him on his wonderful journey around America!
Thanks for reading.