10.14.2004

BECAUSE EVERYONE LOVES WOMEN WHO GET AROUND

I am totally charmed by this review, by Jennifer Hunter of The Chicago Sun-Times, of the new travel writing collection by Susan Orlean. Noted:
These travel writings tended to reflect more about the domestic habits in foreign lands than they did about the actual locales. They were less about adventure and more about the fragmented details of daily, human life. It may seem a bit of a stretch -- and a leap through centuries -- to compare these early feminist travel writers to Susan Orlean, whose book My Kind of Place is described as a collection of travel pieces. But Orlean's book, like Wollstonecraft's and Sand's, is not about conventional travel.

It does tell you something about place, but it tells more about the ordinary people who inhabit that place and the ethos that governs their lives. It certainly isn't about the orthodox concerns of most travelers, the great hotels and lavish dinners. At one point Orlean finds herself sleeping on a hard bunk in a hut on Mt. Fuji after a dinner of plain boiled rice. What Orlean does, in the fashion of her 18th and 19th century forebears, is to explore the domestic at home and abroad: the sandlots where Cuban boys play baseball, an independently owned supermarket in Queens, a trailer park just outside of Portland, Ore.
I love the perspective that the writer provides in that piece.

And then, of course, there is the post that inspired this one, a wonderfully dense collection of related ephemera at the always interesting -- in the best, fullest sense of the word -- kimsaid blog. Topics noted therein: Off the Beaten Track: Three Centuries of Women Travellers, "the history of Silhouette-making", and "an upcoming exhibit features two beautiful portraits of the Senior sisters, 'the toast of London society in 1858.'"

I am heading off on an adventure of my own next month, one that may include a perusal of the inscriptions in the catacombs of Paris. The New York Times notes that the city is in the throes of a George Sand revival.

Related reading: Persepolis 2, The Book of Salt, Madeleine is Sleeping.

-Lauren

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