Foreign from centre to circumference

Can-cans, Cats and Cities of Ash
by Mark Twain

This is in the Penguin Great Journeys series, so it’s an abridged version of a longer travelogue, in this case The Innocents Abroad, Twain’s 1869 account of a cruise across the Atlantic and around the Mediterranean.

I love Twain’s writing style – it’s simple language but excitable. He’s super enthusiastic to learn about the places he visits and to see in person places he has elevated to legendary status. His reactions seem to be genuine and honest. Which unfortunately includes some negative thoughts that are kinda racist.

“Elsewhere we have found foreign-looking things and foreign-looking people, but always with things and people intermixed that we were familiar with before, and so the novelty of the situation lost a deal of its force. We wanted something thoroughly and uncompromisingly foreign – foreign from top to bottom – foreign from centre to circumference – foreign inside and outside and all around – nothing any where about it to dilute its foreignness – nothing to remind us of any other people or any other land under the sun. And lo! in Tangier we have found it.”

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Berlin and books

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I bought some books in Berlin. Because, of course. I feel a little guilty because I read less than half a book while on holiday, but on the other hand, lovely new books! They’re all translations from German and all look great. I only knew of one English-language bookshop in the city before our holiday, but we did stumble across a few more bookshops with small English sections.

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Literary tourism: Daphne du Maurier’s Cornwall

Fowey harbour

Fowey has a lot of things going for it but let’s face it, the main reason I wanted to go there was for its links to Daphne du Maurier, one of my favourite authors. Fowey is a very pretty small town and cargo port on the south coast of Cornwall, on the estuary where the River Fowey meets the English Channel. Its centre two or three streets are packed with tourists and it has far more bars and restaurants than its own small population could support. Its steep hills afford most of the town excellent views of the water, which is always full of boats. Across the other side of the estuary you can see the villages of Polruan and Boddinick, reachable by regular ferry services from Fowey.

Ferryside

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Holiday bookses

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While in Cornwall this past week, I read two books and bought five, plus I talked Tim into buying another three that I kinda want to read too (all our purchases are pictured above). I don’t really do book bans, and any vague notions of one that I do have are always suspended while on holiday, but five books in a week feels like a lot. Then again, we found some lovely bookshops, and I always want to support great bookshops.

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July 2016 reading round-up

This has been an okay month for reading, a bad month for review-writing. But in my defence we’ve been on holiday and that’s definitely a time for reading without thinking too hard about analysis. I do have some thoughts running around my brain that I will at some point turn into reviews when time allows. I also bought quite a lot of books while we were away, which I’ll share pics of soon.

For now I have about a thousand holiday photos to scan through for highlights and half a dozen loads of laundry to wash. Ah, that coming home from holiday feeling! I have a few posts planned about our recent holiday but for now I’ll tease with this photo. There will be many more to come.

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How was your July?

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Cornwall mini-break

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Tim and I are just back from a long weekend in Cornwall. It was warm (if overcast), beautiful as always but most importantly filled with a bunch of our favourite people – a group of friends we go to the same beach with every year. That sounds boring but it is comforting, truly relaxing. I only read one book, but then we did squeeze a lot into four days.

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Light travels differently in a room that contains another person

usUs
by David Nicholls

I’ve enjoyed David Nicholls novels in the past, but the hype around this one, partly because it was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, suggested it was something a bit different, a break from the usual. I was unsure how to feel about that, but I gave it a go and now I’m befuddled, because to me it felt exactly like a David Nicholls novel.

That’s not a criticism of the novel, only of the marketing. Well, maybe it’s a little bit a criticism of the novel, in that I’m not sure exactly why this was deemed more literary, more mature in style, because to me it’s not. It’s a sweet, easy-to-read tale that’s more about plot than the writing. It is often introspective and soul-searching and I very much enjoyed it. I just…thought I might get a little more from it.

The novel opens with middle-aged Douglas being woken by his wife Connie who says that she is leaving him. Or she thinks she wants to. Their marriage isn’t working for her anymore and in a few months’ time, when their son Albie leaves home for university, she will probably leave too. In the meantime, it’s the summer when they had intended to take Albie on the trip of a lifetime, an old-fashioned grand tour around Europe, or at least its greatest art galleries. Connie wants to go ahead and so Douglas throws himself into planning the best holiday ever, hoping that maybe this way he can salvage his marriage.

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Holiday in USA: New York City

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Okay, it’s more than a month since we got back from our US holiday and I still haven’t sorted through all the photos (partly because we’ve only had one free weekend, but it’s still remiss of me) so I’m just going to have to try to summarise our week there before I forget it all completely. It was an amazing trip, with far more activities on our to do list than we had time for, inevitably. It’s New York.

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