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A Reader’s Guide to Planes, Trains, & Automobiles
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Alberto Moravia had his characters make love on a train in The Conformist. And indeed, when Italian railways still had compartments with curtained doors, I more than once surprised embarrassed lovers on the 9:05 Milano–Venezia.
April 10, 2019
Walking with Chatwin
The publication of Bruce Chatwin’s *The Songlines* in 1987 transformed English travel writing; it made it cool. For the previous half century, travel writing seemed to consist either of grim, extended journeys through desolate landscapes or jokes about foreigners. But Chatwin was as attractive as a person as he was as a writer. The *New York Times* review of *The Songlines* ran: “Nearly every writer of my generation in England has wanted, at some point, to be Bruce Chatwin, wanted to be talked about, as he is, with raucous envy; wanted, above all, to have written his books.” I was no exception. Aged twenty, I thought that even his untruths were immensely erudite.
June 25, 2012
When You're Strange
Until I went to live in Africa, I had not known that most people in the world believe that they are the People, and their language is the Word, and strangers are not fully human—at least not human in the way the People are—nor is a stranger’s language anything but the gabbling of incoherent and inspissated felicities. In most languages, the name of a people means “the Original People,” or simply “the People.” “Inuit” means “the People,” and most Native American names of so-called tribes mean “the People:’ For example, the Ojibwe, or Chippewa, call themselves Anishinaabe, “the Original People,” and the Cherokee (the name is not theirs but a Creek word) call themselves Ani Yun Wiya, meaning “Real People,” and Hawaiians refer to themselves as Kanaka Maoli, “Original People.”
May 25, 2011
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