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Hailed by Alistair Cooke as the 'Flaubert of the jet age', Jan Morris's ability to capture the surface and essence of a place has secured her reputation as a leading contemporary travel writer. In this collection of pieces on places as different as Las Vegas and Bombay, Athens and Shanghai, and Sydney and Aberdeen, she combines observation, history, and politics to produce the passionate and witty essays that prompted Rebecca West to call her 'the best descriptive writer of our times'.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780195036060
ISBN-10: 0195036069
Format: Paperback
(277mm x 143mm x 13mm)
Pages: 192
Imprint: Oxford University Press
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publish Date: 24-Jul-1986
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Other Editions

Reviews

US Kirkus Review » Morris' fifth book of travel essays, with recent pieces from Rolling Stone (the majority), the London Times, Encounter, and Connoisseur, offers a somewhat fresher range of places than the grab-bag of Destinations (1980). Moreover, even when the perceptions here are unsurprising or not-fully-developed, Morris' aphoristic prose can give them an infectious lift and edge. Vienna is "obsessed, and obsessive," running to fat, swollen with heritage, complacent yet neurotic: "It is as though at heart this whole famous metropolis, through its bows, smiles, and proprieties, would like nothing so much as to flop down on a sofa in tearful revelation" - Freud's sofa, of course. The boom-town of Aberdeen, which has gotten rough, even cartoonish treatment from Paul Theroux and others, comes through very differently here - thanks to its skeptical reserve: "There is no suddenness to Aberdeen. The ecstasy rate, I would say, is very low." Sydney, Australia, is young, in love with its own dialect/slang. A journey from England to Yugoslavia takes Morris through a series of up-to-date short-takes - highlighted by roller-skate-crazy, newly uneasy Geneva ("an abrasive kind of fizz") and beloved, irretrievable Venice: "I rather enjoyed this vigorous new cacophony, and thought if you couldn't have The Four Stallions of St. Mark, you could do worse than turn the Piazza into a kind of disco." The American close-ups are a mixed bag: an uninspired look at the real culture behind the sham of Santa Fe, "the artiest, sculpturest, weaviest and potteryest town on earth"; a Las Vegas profile with only a speck or two of originality; a reasonably balanced view of Miami; an evocative but unfocused ramble across Texas. And whenever there's attempt at deeper sociological insight, it usually drifts off course - especially in an admittedly "muddled" attempt to make some sense of a two-city taste (Shanghai, Beijing) of China. Still, though Morris is over-fond of hyperbole, cries of "Ah," and exclamation points, her eye for detail and vignette remains a sure source of paragraph-by-paragraph pleasure - as does (except in moments of excess archness) her ironic brio. Solid-to-splendid Morris, then, more skeptical than gushy, but without the sourness that has made her friend Paul Theroux so off-putting of late. (Kirkus Reviews)


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