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You were bit by what kind of bug?

May 17, 2009

Short stories are pretty low on my list of favorite things to read.  I can’t remember ever purchasing a short story anthology.  So picture my surprise this evening, when I realized that I have been reading short stories voraciously.

Travel is what started it all.   I have been journaling about travel experiences and about dreams of travel experiences.  Somehow it came to me that other people write about their travel experiences, too.  So I went to the library and checked out some travel anthologies.  The first one I read was The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2009: True Stories From Around the World, edited by Lucy McCauley.  Being a woman, sometimes it is simply enjoyable to read work only by women.  There were a couple stories in the anthology I skimmed, but overall it was great fun to read.  The Globe Corner Bookstore wrote a perfect review:

Since the publication of A Woman’ s World in 1995, Travelers’ Tales has been the recognized leader in women’ s travel literature. This title presents stimulating, inspiring, and just plain wild adventures from women who have traveled to the ends of the earth to discover new places, peoples, and facets of themselves. The common threads connecting these stories are a woman’s perspective; fresh, lively storytelling; and compelling narrative that makes the reader laugh, weep, wish she was there, or be glad she wasn’t.

Contributors include such luminaries as Frances Mayes, Barbara Kingsolver, and Diane Johnson. Kathleen Spivak’ s From the Window, a bittersweet, beautifully written memoir of lost love in Paris, typifies the book. The points of view and perspectives are both personal and global, and the themes are as eclectic as in all of this series, including stories that encompass spiritual growth, hilarity and misadventure, high adventure, romance, solo journeys, stories of service to humanity, family travel, and encounters with exotic cuisine.

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The next anthology I read was The Best American Travel Writing 2008, edited by Anthony Bourdain.  One essay really stood out for me, not so much because of the writing, but because of the subject.  Hope and Squalor at Chungking Mansion by Karl Taro Greenfeld, was the epitome of how strange and exotic our world can be.  A whole science fiction novel was written in my mind immediately after reading the story.    Have you heard of Chungking Mansion?  I was amazed I had never heard even a whisper about it, prior to reading this travelogue.  It is located in one of the busiest districts of Hong Kong, has five blocks (A, B, C, D, and E), and is seventeen stories tall.  Once a residence building with apartments, it has been divided, subdivided and jerry-rigged into low budget hotels, hostels, sari stores, tattoo parlors, sweat shops, curry restaurants, African bistros, and foreign exchange offices.  A little world unto itself, it is estimated there are now 4,000 people living in the mansion.  A tiny room in one of the “hotels” can be rented for just a few dollars.  If you are intrigued, watch this youtube video that gives a pretty good idea of the flavor of the place.  I so want to go there.

Then I read was The Best Travel Writing 2006: True Stories From Around the World, edited by James O’Reilly, Larry Habegger, and Sean O’Reilly.  This is a great collection.  Knowing these stories are more fact than fiction made them even more attractive – oh, the possibilities!  I wrote a post about wanderlust a little while ago, and I still have the disease.  Far from easing the symptoms, reading these anthologies just exacerbated the itch.

My upcoming travel adventure: Next weekend has been set aside for a trip to Lily River.  We’ve reserved a room in the bed and breakfast where we lodged on our last visit there.

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I will write a longer story about The Crystal Bell when I return from our next visit, because it is such a wonderful, restful place, with such an interesting history.  I’ve included here a picture of the living room, where we enjoyed tea and warm chocolate chip cookies in the late afternoon sun, after our arrival.

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And here is a picture in Dublin, last June.  What would Ireland be without a spot of rain?  Actually it poured and we had to buy an umbrella, after a breath-taking look at the Book of Kells.  We were still absolutely sodden by the time we reached home.

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It’s not raining in Milwaukee today, however.  The sun is shining, and I am heading out to take a few photos, before the afternoon’s agenda gobbles up all my free time.  Happy Spring!

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2009 9:41 am

    Hooray! You’re back–and reading some pretty great stuff, from the sound of it. I think that women’s travel sagas, particularly “middle aged” women, particularly alone, have practically become their own genre. I have an earlier “Best Women’s Travel Writing” that I dip into occasionally; will have to look out for the new one. Of course, they mostly serve to make me jealous 😉 Would follow Anthony Bourdain anywhere, but probably wouldn’t eat with him (at least, not bugs). Inn looks wonderful. Do enjoy your next trip “up north.”
    You would have to be brave to follow Anthony Bourdain when he supps on seal eyeballs and warthog rectums!! He is quite a brave fellow.
    Thank you – I am looking forward to the respite just around the bend – my cell phone doesn’t work there, so oh dear, no one can call me. 😉

  2. May 18, 2009 12:02 pm

    I’m always so busy reading novels, I forget all about short stories! So glad you’ve been enjoying some great collections, and love the photos. Hope you have a super weekend

    Thanks for the super wishes, litlove. I am just not attracted to short stories – or so I thought…
    I am looking forward to sitting under a tree listening to the river chatter, with pen and paper in my lap. Heaven.

  3. Bellezza permalink
    May 20, 2009 4:31 am

    Like you, I’m not overly fond of short stories (or, should I say, the former you?). But, there is something appealing in a quick read, a quick immersion into a glimpse of someone’s life. The only short stories I’ve been picking up are Japanese: Murakami’s “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” or the newest collection by an author I can’t remember(!) called “The Stationmaster.” I’ll get back to you on that one, I just ordered it from amazon.com Anyway, I have loved my travels to Europe, and Ireland, or even to the Northwoods of Wisconsin, and so the Best Travel stories look like a great getaway. Thanks for your review.
    The stories are exactly that – a great little getaway. When I stop to pick up my coffee in the morning, I have been sitting for half an hour and reading Music of the Storm (Indonesia), Full Moon over Bohemia (Czech Republic), Bees Born of Tears (Mexico), and The Book (South America). It has been a great, relaxing, dreamy way to start the day.

  4. May 20, 2009 5:15 pm

    Hi, Q, Had to stop by this morning (it’s been ages) and delighted by the pictures. Every one of them. Ireland in the rain? pooh, who cares about a bit of rain. I’ll take Ireland on ANY day! lovely.

    I’m with you in the rain!

  5. May 21, 2009 7:04 pm

    I have always maintained that people who say they do not like short stories have just not discovered the author or subject in short story form that will trip their trigger. It may be an arrogant stance on my part, though it isn’t meant to be. I am simply a head-over-heels-in-love fan of the short story. I’ve read my fair share of ‘meh’ ones, but I have read so many amazing, captivating, inspiring short stories that I just have to push the genre. I’ve read wonderful travel short stories over the years as well. Yours look and sound great.

    Fascinating about the Chungking area. I am assuming now that this is why the movie Chungking Express, a favorite of mine, is called what it is. I was thinking it was merely the restaurant name that is featured in the movie but I bet it ties into that whole area. Yay, I learned something today!!!

    You are a short story pusher, Carl! I was just never snagged…. or I though I wasn’t. And yes, Chungking Express was partially filmed at the mansion. The place is a labyrinth where I suspect one could get lost for days. I think a great travel story not only piques your interest and makes you yearn to go there, it actually does take you there. Quite a few of the stories in these anthologies did just that.

  6. May 21, 2009 7:05 pm

    And I forgot to mention, I read Under the Tuscan Sun and Bella, Tuscany by Frances Mayes and adored them.

    Thanks for the reminder, Carl. It’s been years since I read Under the Tuscan Sun – and I think it is worth a re-read in my current mood. Have you seen the movie? I wonder if it is very good, being “loosely based” on the novel…

  7. May 22, 2009 2:24 am

    Found your site by accident …love the recommendations. I am looking for books to take with
    me to Dublin – where all the travel sites talk about how sunny it is in June…thanks for the heads up with the pictures of people wearing long pants and jackets carrying umbrellas! I will be prepared.

    Thanks for dropping in and chatting, Jo! I hope you write about your trip to Ireland for the blog world – I would love to read about it.
    Ireland in mid June was mostly sunny, but there were rainy moments and very cool moments. Jackets and umbrellas are a must. I wonder where you are staying in Dublin? We rented an apartment which turned out to be just great, and the perfect coffee shop was just around the corner!
    I hope you have a fabulous trip 🙂

  8. May 23, 2009 12:21 am

    Fabulous photos! I want to be traveling with you! I know what you mean about travel writing — I love it. Travelers Tales on Japan was one of my favorites and I will pick up the women’s travel writers edition — that looks wonderful!

    Wanderlust! I leave for Paris for the very first time in three weeks — I’m so excited I can hardly stand it!

    Have a lovely holiday weekend!

    Bon jour, Jeanie! I can imagine your wanderlust!!! Paris in three weeks – I am so jealous. I hope you have a wonderful trip, and I am looking forward to your photos and travel stories. Have you begun packing?!

  9. May 28, 2009 1:39 am

    I read Under the Tuscan Sun because I fell in love with the film. I knew, because of the extras on the DVD, that the film is very, very, very loosely based on the book…at least the main romantic plot thread. The stuff about living there and the food, etc. is more in line with the book, but the romantic story line is made up in the sense that, as you know, Frances was already married in the book. If you can think of them as related but different entities then I believe you would love the movie. It is, in my opinion, a fantastic romantic travelogue film. Just wonderful.

    Sold!! I will get the movie from the library this weekend. Thanks Carl.

  10. May 31, 2009 9:55 am

    Oh, my – oh, my – oh, my. That “poof” of dust is me, heading off to get every one of these books. I remember you mentioning the one about women travel writers, of course, and I’m eager to read some of what others are up to. I just posted yet another entry about my Mississippi trip, which brings the total to… uh…. well, maybe four or five, and there are more to come. I think I figured eleven posts out of a five day trip. I never would have predicted that, not in my wildest imagination.

    The truth is I’ve discovered I love travel writing almost as much as I love travel, and that’s really saying something! I’m glad you’re on the road, and can’t wait to see what you have for us!

    Carl… I’m with you on the short stories!

    And surely both of you have read Paul Theroux?

    I am not surprised, Linda, that you love travel writing. It is obvious from your travel stories, first of all, and second, I love doing the travel writing myself. I have been following your Mississippi trip and enjoying each step of the way – glad to hear there is more to come.
    Paul Theroux – I read his tale of travel around Great Britain many years ago, and the anthologies I mentioned have work by him too – most enjoyable. I can’t get enough of this travel writing! I went to the doctor last week for my travel shots, and she suggested I read Eat Pray Love. I had no interest in it prior to her mention, but since she so highly recommended it, I picked it up. It would fit in the chick lit category, but it is also so much more than that. I am really enjoying it! I think I will write a review when I am done…..

  11. June 18, 2009 4:32 am

    I have been in the Chungking Mansions, but only the foyer. It is in the Tsim Sha Tsui area of Hong Kong. The foyer alone is a very chaotic place, and decided not to go further in. I presume it is named after the city of Chungking (also known as Chongqing) in central China, though I may be wrong.

    I have only just discovered this website by the way, and it is very interesting.

    Hi Ed, thanks so much for visiting and commenting! I can imagine – I think the Chungking Mansion would be a little overwhelming for me. I think I would still like to check it out, though.

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