I gave in after all (after trying to resist it, not too hard, as I was confessing here), and started reading my Christmas books early. I am currently reading Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar, and so far, so good. I used to travel by train a lot in my twenties, locally and through Europe, and there were very few times when I didn’t enjoy the ride – in fact, about the only time I remember was when we almost got robbed in Hungary, on route to Prague. I don’t know why, but the world seems bigger, but also closer and more beautiful when discovered by train. A train trip allows you to dream, think, read, actually see the world (as opposed to when you are on a plane or behind the wheel of a car). The author’s words in the first chapter really hit home.
“Those whistles sing bewitchment: railways are irresistible bazaars, snaking along perfectly level no matter what the landscape, improving your mood with speed, and never upsetting your drink. […] If a train is large and comfortable you don’t even need a destination; a corner seat is enough, and you can be one of those travelers who stay in motion, straddling the tracks, and never arrive or feel they ought to.”
I am also reading A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush, by Eric Newby, at the moment, and I must say I can’t remember when was the last time when I laughed so much after having read just the first two chapters from a book. Just to give you a hint of the author’s self-deprecating humour, I will tell you this: the first chapter is titled Life of a Salesman (Newby used to be an haute couture designer, of all things), and the second chapter is named Death of a Salesman (he gave that practice up and, inexperienced and completely ill-prepared, embarked on an adventure and amateurish expedition in the Hindu Kush mountains, north-east of Kabul, previously called Kafiristan, “The Country of the Unbelievers”). I am already loving the natural writing, sharp wit and good old English humour. I am certain this is going to become one of those books I will feel good about gifting to other book lovers, too.
And, finally, it was François Truffaut’s The Films in My Life that started all the reading frenzy. I know, no matter what I do, I keep coming back to films. Not only is Truffaut one of my favourite French directors and my favourite French New Wave director, but his work as a film critic was also truly remarkable. I don’t pay much attention to film critique, but the reason why I appreciate his (and Roger Ebert’s, as a matter of fact, whose opinions are the only ones I sometimes read and always appreciate) is that he loved movies. That was his reason for writing about films and it makes all the difference. We have another book that comprises Truffaut’s early film critique, which I got a while ago, when I couldn’t find a copy of The Films in My Life, but I admit it failed to capture my interest. But more about this volume and other recent, good film books added to our collection, in a separate blog post.
I wish you a Merry Christmas! Safe travels and may your holidays be filled with joy and the people you love! Thank you for your friendship, readership and continuous support.
photo by me