Three Books in Travel Literature To Pick Up This Month
No Vulgar Hotel: The Desire and Pursuit of Venice by Judith Martin
I came to own this book from a used book sale on the town green in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Having visited Venice before, I was eager to read a travel memoir about the city. It is everything that will wet your appetite for travel and Venice. It inspires me to become a Venetophile or a loyal lover of another foreign city (though just the second half of that sentence contradicts the concept of Venetophilia). Judith wittily weaves through the city’s history in a way that feels personal and gripping. She includes personal anecdotes as well as tips on being recognized as a true accessory to the city’s landscape and story rather than just another tourist.
“Venetophiles who can’t draw are unable to resist writing about Venice, as the existence of this book attests.”
“Her idea was not to see Venice so much as to be there, not to gaze at the wonders but to become a figure in the tableau.”
“Without Venice, we would not have had mirrors and possibly not the inventions mirrors made possible, such as fad diets and tweezers.”
In my one of my second year anthropology courses at university, my professor assigned us chapters from this novel to supplement class discussion. I ended up purchasing the entire book because of Kelsey’s captivating stories. After realizing one day that nearly all of his favorite items of clothing were made in other countries, Kelsey set out to find the specific factories and humans on the other side of the world producing his wardrobe. His accounts from traveling to Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, and Honduras puts names and faces to the people who are otherwise viewed as cogs in the machinery of mass consumerism.
“Nothing—a smile, a laugh, not even a single pair of underwear—is taken for granted. If beauty lies in poverty, then Bangladesh is very beautiful.”
“Like baseball, like apple pie, and like my childhood, jeans are as American as you can wear. The label inside my favorite jeans reads “Made in Cambodia.”’
The Great American Bus Ride by Irma Kurtz
Waiheke Island’s Saturday morning market in Ostend is one of my favorite places to visit for used books. I cannot walk away from the book tent without at least three new literary finds and last time I explored the tables, I found Irma Kurtz. Traveling by bus is not romantic. It is long, bumpy, and can be gritty and grueling. Irma sets off to see her native country, the United States, by Greyhound bus for three months in the dead of winter. Her descriptions of landscapes make the backcountry of states like Idaho and Wyoming sound appealing to one who’s never entertained the idea of going there while her portrayals of the characters she comes into contact with paint a picture of the myriad of Americans who ride the bus and why.
“It took guts not to whine about losses, real or imagined, and to treat them with acceptance, native optimism, even: the American idea that fortunes are made to be lost and made again, again, and again.”
“Let’s cover our tracks and never come back: not for love, not for money, not to perform and repeat, until time runs out, little jobs that are of no further importance, if indeed they were ever very much to begin with. Get smart kiddo, This is your chance to pursue forever, free as a snail, the endless traits of your inner homeland.”