A disappointment - the book barely cracks 200 pages, so many of the pieces are so short. And although there are a handful of excellent pieces, it does...moreA disappointment - the book barely cracks 200 pages, so many of the pieces are so short. And although there are a handful of excellent pieces, it doesn't quite make up for the disappointment of the rest. The guest editor, Elizabeth Gilbert, seems to prefer factual-based pieces, more reportage than strictly travel pieces. And, again, although some of these are good - Marie Arana's story of poverty on the gold mines in Peru, Dreaming of El Dorado, for instance, when you're expecting travel narratives, it means it doesn't quite cut. The one excellent - and more personal travel essay, and I prefer travel to use the "I" and be personal, after all we all take ourselves with when we travel - was Judy Copeland's The Way I've Come, about climbing through New Guinea. This combined observation of a foreign place, with intensely personal writing, as well. Sam Anderson's The Pippiest Place on Earth, a combination of a journey to Dickens World, an amusement park devoted to the work of Charles Dickens, and a mediation on literary tourism was another excellent and thought-provoking read. (less)
I loved this book - an account of a year spent in Iceland, teaching at the university, living there with her husband and two young sons.
The descripti...moreI loved this book - an account of a year spent in Iceland, teaching at the university, living there with her husband and two young sons.
The descriptions of the landscapes are magical and evoke Moss's love affair with this strange, unfamiliar landscape and place: "We’re south of the Arctic Circle here, and it’s already July, a month past the solstice, so around 1 a.m. the light dims, the birds fall silent, the wind drops. It’s not a sleep but a holding of breath, a sudden thought of death that gets longer each night."
Here's Moss being entranced by the Northern Lights close to midnight one icy eve:
"I am able to stand there for nearly half an hour, watching the green curtain reach across the sky and contract, like the convulsive grasping of a palsied hand. It is the movement that makes them uncanny, as if there must be some consciousness directing the stroking and grabbing of the sky. I stand, and watch, and shiver, and watch some more. I want to stay until the end, but after a while find that there is a limit to how long an intelligent adult can be enthralled by green lights, and go home."
Moss must come to terms with being a foreigner, the Icelandic she's learned is frozen on her tongue when she tries to use it, and understanding the Icelandic culture is both adventure and frustrating bewilderment: "Icelandic drivers don’t indicate, Pétur once told me, because they don’t see why anyone else needs to know where they’re going."
In the travel writing course that she teaches, "We’re all enjoying thinking about how much where you come from shapes what you see when you leave. Home, I tell them, is the paper on which travel writes."
But in the end,"Maybe it is always easier to love the place that isn’t home."
A beautiful mediation on time in a strange, magical world.
Strange sometimes surreal tales - people trapped in a lift, people watching an absurdist play, a girl looks after a cow named Daisy... The best, for m...moreStrange sometimes surreal tales - people trapped in a lift, people watching an absurdist play, a girl looks after a cow named Daisy... The best, for me, as always are the more realistic and "traditional" stories, where character comes first and you get behind the skin of a character in a story. There were fewer of these than I would have liked, unfortunately, so ideally I'd like to give this 2 and half stars. (less)
A delicate yet powerful read about a weekend in the country. Set in 1994 there are no ARVs, or cellphones, and interesting to see how this affects the...moreA delicate yet powerful read about a weekend in the country. Set in 1994 there are no ARVs, or cellphones, and interesting to see how this affects the storyline. A story of mourning, change and coming to terms with life's losses. In between the poetic descriptions of landscape, both exterior and interior, there is plenty of thoughtful and stimulating conversation. An excellent, sensitive read - a novel that's slim and just about novella-like in its simplicity. Highly recommended. (less)