As readers of these rambling columns know I am a great reader of travel literature during the summer and autumn seasons, and that I have been frustrated of late. A few days ago I listed my favorite literary adventurers, but all have disappointed me. Chatwin and Thesiger are dead, so it is unlikely that they will be publishing future titles, let alone journeying down an unreported Somali river. Thubron has gone silent. Theroux has not traveled much of late and is publishing short stories and collections of his adventures. Bill Bryson has become all-too-serious, and clearly deeply rooted in his adopted Yorkshire, and as for that scoundrel Thornburgh… let’s just say that I’m long awaiting the sequel to Never Look Back, and wondering if it will ever come. So what am I reading this mid-summer?
A chance conversation with another writer and reader brought up the name Jonathan Raban. Nodding politely I thought, “I’ve never heard of this guy.” And of course that is a perfect example of my ignorance in this field, and later that day I went to Amazon Dot Com and ordered two of his works.
After three chapters into Old Glory: A Voyage Down the Mississippi, I am intrigued by many things. Yes it’s a great read and will sustain me for many days, but more than that. Something about his vocabulary, musings and world view addressed me in a very personal way. I had to know more about this stranger who seemed to share many of my views and interpretations as a “Brit” in the USA.
Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Jonathan Raban was not only the son of an Anglican priest (which I am) but also went to the King’s School, Worcester, (which I did.) He now lives in Seattle with his daughter, and I am about to write him a wonderful letter of greeting and invitation!