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Wow! What a perfect book for the prospective traveler to Europe!

Wow! What a perfect book for the prospective traveler to Europe!

Apr 30th, 2001, 09:43 AM
wes fowler
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Wow! What a perfect book for the prospective traveler to Europe!

Since it now appears that some semblance of propriety and renewed emphasis on travel related issues has been restored to the forum, I’d like to recommend, to those interested, a brilliant book by a truly fine travel writer, Jan Morris. She has been writing of her travel experiences for over fifty years and has consistently reaped praise for the artistry, intelligence and feeling she brings to her work. One reviewer said: “Jan Morris has been everywhere and given us some of the most stylish topographical and historical writing of the century”. Another wrote: “There is no one writing today able to capture the spirit of a place as brilliantly and perceptively as Jan Morris”.

Many of you may know her books devoted to Venice, Oxford, Spain and Wales. If not and you contemplate visiting any of those places, do invest the time to find a copy and revel in the insights these books offer.

I’ve just encountered a book of hers published in 1997. It’s “Fifty Years of Europe, an Album” a wonderfully insightful look at the Europe she’s lived in and traveled in and through repeatedly over the past fifty years. From Iceland and Estonia to Andorra and Macedonia and all way stops in between, Morris looks at Europe, its countries, their histories, ethnicity, eccentricities and hidden delights through the eyes of a wonderfully perceptive, curiosity filled traveler blessed with the gift of conveying her impressions with a delightful, insightful prose style. She, and her works, are true treasures that every European traveler should seek out.

To give you a sense of her and her writing, here are a few lines from “Fifty Years of Europe” prompted by an earlier posting here asking why the French are so chauvinistic. “…the French are born character actors, and wonderfully fulfill their own stereotypes” and, a little earlier in her book “…insidiously seductive, to my mind, is the glory of France, perhaps because it has always struck me as being perfectly humorless. One cannot laugh at the swank and strut of it, just as it would have seemed unkind to snigger at the gaunt solemnity of General de Gaulle, to whom all life seemed so tragically in earnest, and to whom the idea of France not being a power would have been preposterous.”

Seek out her books, particularly “Fifty Years of Europe”. You’ll be wonderfully rewarded.
Apr 30th, 2001, 09:46 AM
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Thank you, Wes. Good to hear from you.
Apr 30th, 2001, 11:05 AM
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Jan Morris, is indeed a fine writer and this a particularly good example, but anything by Jan is great. Jan was born male. When I was in school my biology professor caught some of us making rude remarks about men who dressed as women (a local scandal about cross dressing in a small town in Newfoundland, Canada ). He helped us be more compassionate and intelligent by reading a passage from a very early work of Morris's who was a fellow student of his back in Britain in an all boys school. Morris, born a boy, was always a great writer but his/her life was made hellish by the other boys and he escaped as a lad by writing about places he fantasized but had never been, as a method of escape. My biology teacher introduced a bunch of crude teenagers to this great writer and also a concept which otherwise we might have found only ludicrous or sick...that some folks are so desperately unhappy that they will do anything to change their circumstances. I've never forgotten the writer or the message and somehow travel to me is enhanced because of both.
Apr 30th, 2001, 01:00 PM
amy hutt
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Wes - thank you for this recommendation. I plan to pick up Morris' book before I head to Greece on May 15.
I realize the writing style may be quite different but I just finished reading Bill Bryson's 'Neither Here Nor There, Tales of Travel in Europe'. It was 'laugh out loud' funny. I highly recommend it for anyone who's traveled to Europe or has plans to.
Apr 30th, 2001, 02:16 PM
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Thanks for the tip, Wes. I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Morris speak in Seattle a number of years ago; she's as engaging a speaker as she is a writer.

Re: Ms. Morris's comment: "…the French are born character actors, and wonderfully fulfill their own stereotypes"

One of my favorite books about the French is Richard Bernstein's Fragile Glory: A Portrait of France and the French. For French history, I loved Ina Caro's The Road from the Past: Traveling Through History in France, and I'm intending to pick up Adam Gopnik's relatively new book, Paris to the Moon.

Lesley, thank you for the wonderful story. I know a man here in Seattle who is currently undergoing this difficult -- though ultimately rewarding --transition, and is scheduled to take the final, surgical step soon. To me, it must be one of the most bizarre feelings imaginable to feel that one is "trapped in the wrong body."
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