Friday, December 30, 2005

Travel Writing

So, it's about 2 am CST. I was about to cozy up with a book and read myself to sleep as I usually do but then I felt something nagging me. I could not place my finger on it for 15 minutes or so and then it hit me. I wanted to write ! I know it sounds corny but it's true. I have not exercised my creative muscles in the last 2 weeks (save for the last post, which did not require that much exercise) and a fortnight is pretty long for a dry spell. Yes, I know it the spell happened more because of laziness on my part than anything else but that's just splitting hairs.

Anyway, so once I figured out that I wanted to write, I then turned my attention to what, if anything, was going to be the object of this creative exercise. A blog post ! Even if I ramble on sleepily, it fits within the blog paradigm and I will get that nagging feeling out of my head. Brilliant ! Excellent ! Umm ... err ... where was I ? Oh yeah, something about rambling.

So now I know I want to write and I also know what I want to write. That's a pretty good start, don't you think ? Now, I need to figure out what to write about when I am writing what I decided to write (try saying that fast more than once !). I know ... I will write about what I am currently reading - The Best American Travel Writing 2004. It's one of my favorite genres - Travel Essays - and one of my favorite series - The Best American Writing. I pretty much finished the rest in the 2004 set some time ago but had not gotten to this one until the flight to St. Louis.

I first got exposed to travelogues when I picked up a copy of the excellent City of Djinns by the brilliant and under-read William Dalrymple. Being a delhite myself, I really appreciated the wonderful account of Mr. Dalrymple's stay and exploits in the Indian capital. From then on, there was no stopping me. I went on to the mesmerising From the Holy Mountain - an account of his travel among the orthodox Christian population living in the Middle Eastern nations. I was so taken with his descriptions that I did something I rarely do - I looked up his email address from his official website and emailed him to express my sheer joy at having read such a wonderful piece of work. To my surprise, I got an email back from him within the hour thanking me for my comments and enquiring about what I was studying (I had mentioned I was a student). I also read his The Age of Kali during the summer when I was in NY and I was flabbergasted ! He had outdone himself. I emailed him with comments along similar lines and his reply was very heartening. He said that I had just made his day with my comments. He also encouraged me to read his latest, this time a work of historical fiction and critically acclaimed, White Mughals. Alas, I have not yet found time to read it but it has been on my list for some time now and I hope to relish it soon.

Anyway, back to the book I am reading now. It is pretty darn good and I think I have some new favorites whose columns I will attempt to track during the coming year. In fact, may be I can post links to some of my favorite pieces that were actually published online. Let's see if Google can help me out here ... ah, here we go - The heart-stirring Facing Famine (Tom Haines, Boston Globe), the personally resonating The People On The Bus (Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker), the pleasantly mis-titled (read it and you will see) Kashmiri Extremism (Kevin Fedarko, Skiing) and the hilariously entertaining Canadian Gothic (Douglas Anthony Cooper, Travel & Leisure). I would have liked to post links to all the articles collected in the book but the reasons for my reluctance are threefold:

  • I think that sleep I mentioned earlier is catching up with me.
  • I really want to convince you to buy this book. No, I don't work for the publisher. I just really like it when extremely well written words find a large readership.
  • I have not finished the book yet.

So, if you have been holding off on reading travelogues, you now have even fewer excuses to do so. Happy vicarious traveling, my friends !

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