A Quiz Who Says What: Writers on Travel and Travel Writing
1. “Any country which displays more than one statue of the same living politicianA Quiz Who Says What: Writers on Travel and Travel Writing
1. “Any country which displays more than one statue of the same living politician is a country which is headed for trouble.”
2. A country’s pornography is a glimpse into its subconscious mind.
3. A nation’s shitting habits are the key to all its citizens’ attitudes.
4. “Literature is made out of the misfortunes of others. A large number of travel books fail simply because of the monotonous good luck of their authors”.
5. “The subject matter of the best travel books is the conflict between writer and place. It is not important which of them carries the day, so long as the struggle is faithfully recorded. It takes a writer with a gift for describing a situation to do this well, which is perhaps the reason why so many travel books that remain in the memory have been produced by writers expert at the fashioning of novels”.
6. Americans are overfamiliar slobs and hypocrites who did nothing but spit.
7. “I do not think I shall ever forget the sight of Etna at sunset, the mountain almost invisible in a blur of pastel grey, glowing on the top and then repeating its shape, as though reflected, in a wisp of grey smoke with the whole horizon behind radiant with pink light, fading gently into the grey pastel sky. Nothing I have seen in Art of Nature was quite so revolting”.
8. “Men who go looking for the source of a river are merely looking for the source of something missing in themselves, and never finding it”.
9. “Let’s say that Albert Speer; while leafing through a book on Gaudi, swallowed an overdose of LSD and began to build a nuptial catacomb for Liza Minelli. But that doesn’t give you an idea. Let’s say Arcimboldi builds the Sagrada Familia for Dolly Paton. Or: Carmen Miranda designs a Tiffany locale for the Jolly Hotel chain. Or D’Annunzio’s Vittoriale imagined by Bob Cratchitt, Calvino’s Invisible Cities described by Judith Krantz and executed by Leonor Fini for the plush-doll industry. Chopin Sonata in B flat minor sung by Perry Como in an arrangement by Liberace and accompanied by the Marine Band. No, that still isn’t right.”
10. “Implicit in the unspoken contract between a travel writer and his audience is the assumption that the writer is for the most part sincere in truthfully recounting his experiences: that he does not fabricate incidents that never happened, or invent characters that never existed in the interest of adding a much needed piquancy to his narrative. But given the human propensity for embroidery, self aggrandizement and even mythomania, how easy it is for this trust to be breached with impunity!”
The List of Suspects
Paul Theroux --- Sir Richard Francis Burton --- Paul Bowles --- V.S. Naipaul --- V.S. Pritchett --- Evelyn Waugh --- Fanny Trollope --- Umberto Eco
1. Paul Theroux, The Pillars of Hercules.
2. “It seemed incontestable to me that a country’s pornography was a glimpse into its subconscious mind, revealing its inner life, its fantasy, its guilts, its passions, even its child–rearing, not to say its marriages and courtship rituals. It was not the whole truth, but it contained many clues and even more warnings, especially of its men”. Paul Theroux, The Pillars of Hercules.
3. “I wonder, I wonder if the shitting habits of Indians are not the key to all their attitudes”. V.S. Naipaul, quoted in The World is What It Is.
4. V.S. Pritchett, Complete Essays (1991).
5. Paul Bowles, The Challenge to Identity (1958).
6. “I do not like them. I do not like their principles. I do not like their manners, I do not like their opinions”. Fanny Trollope, mother of Anthony, The Domestic Manners of Americans (1832).
7. Evelyn Waugh, Labels (1930).
8. Sir Richard Francis Burton.
9. Umberto Eco, trying to describe the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, Travels in Hyperreality (1995).
10. Sandybanks, in her review of The Tao of Travel (2011). ...more