The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road



The Tao of Travel: Enlightenments from Lives on the Road
Travel maestro Theroux (The Great Railway Bazaar) conducts a rambling tour of the genre in this diverting meditation on passages from his own and other writers' works. Several chapters spotlight underappreciated travel writers from Samuel Johnson to Paul Bowles, while others explore themes both profound and whimsical. There are classic set-piece literary evocations, including Thoreau on the hush of the Maine woods and Henry James on the miserable pleasures of Venice. A section on storied but disappointing destinations fingers Tahiti as 'a mildewed island of surly colonials'; travel epics—shipwrecks, Sahara crossings, Jon Krakauer's duel with Mount Everest—are celebrated; exotic meals are recalled (beetles, monkey eyes, and human flesh, anyone?); and some writers, like Emily Dickinson, just stay home and write about that. The weakest section is a compendium of aphoristic abstractions—'Travel is a vanishing act, a solitary trip down a pinched line of geography to oblivion'—while the strongest pieces descry a tangible place through a discerning eye and pungent sensibility: 'I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset,' Evelyn Waugh rhapsodizes; 'othing I have seen in Art or Nature was quite so revolting.'
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