Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Travel reading

Friend of the Blog Cary Federman recently pointed me to Jay Parini's essay on the importance of selecting the right book for a journey. It opens:
Weeks before any journey, I begin to worry about what books I'll bring. It doesn't matter whether it's a short hop for the night or something more adventurous, I wonder what I'll read en route (if I'm going by plane or train) and what I'll read while I'm there, perhaps sleepless in a hotel room. There's nothing worse than being without the right book in those situations. Yet — given the restrictions and demands of travel — one has to be selective.
Further on, he discusses one book from a past holiday:
We all have a long, imaginary shelf of masterpieces we have not read. For years I was embarrassed by my ignorance of War and Peace, and Tolstoy's massive novel had sat on the shelf, glaring at me. Not until the mid-80s, when I passed a lovely spring on the Amalfi Coast of Italy in a tiny rented house, did I find myself ready to tackle it. I would rise at dawn (we had two babies then) and take my coffee to the terrace. There was a grove of lemon trees behind me, and I could look all the way down the coast from Amalfi to Salerno, the sunlight on the sea like scattered coins. I was absorbed for two months in that astonishing novel, making my first acquaintance with Pierre, Natasha, Bolkonsky, and the rest of Petersburg society. Forever I will associate that story with that place, and that time in my life.
Read the entire essay. Parini is a fine writer and a perceptive reader.

Last month, Neal Hoskins pondered the best books to read when traveling by train. He had a few of his own picks, and commenters on his piece suggested many more.

--Marshal Zeringue