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.
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.
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.
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.
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!