The Art of Travel

A refreshing look at travelling, comparing expectations to reality, travel aided by literature and art. The last chapter (most fresh to my mind) dealt in realizing the beauty around your everyday life, insisting that you need not travel far (merely outside your front door) to be entertained by new thoughts and things you’d not noticed out of habit.
De Botton travels to Barbados, Amsterdam, Egypt (via Flaubert’s writings and life), Sinai desert, the English countryside, Madrid, Provence, and his neighborhood block. He interspersed several relevant pictures and paintings between pages of words.
The best travel book I’ve yet read.

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Amsterdam

Molly Lane is dead. Clive and Vernon were Molly’s lovers long ago, and meet at her funeral. Clive is a successful composer and Vernon is a newspaper editor. Other lovers include Julian Garmony, the foreign secretary. After the funeral, Clive and Vernon make a euthanasia pact; compromising pics of Molly & Julian find their way into the press.
Bland, boring, obvious.

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Vanity Fair

The story without a hero (pause) has a heroine. The question remains: is she Becky or Amelia? Flat ending: too much drama to be believable. Tons of characters, all interwoven, three generations worth. Poverty and wealth, 19th century life, the ending seemed to taper off into nothing, all ends were tied up neatly. But how else is a book like this to end? Unless it ends when Dobbin leaves Amelia. That would have satisfied me. There are no glorious battles to go off and fight these days; there is no glory in today’s world.

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The Curious Case of Sidd Finch

Finished Curious Case of Sidd Finch last night. Bizarre, but Plimpton TWICE mentions the guy who attached helium balloons to his lawn chair to float over Long Beach back in the 80s. The last mention was on the last page. Last week I saw the link to the NYTimes article from back in the 80s when it happened. I was reading along and when i got to that part i was like, “Hmm, this is oddly familiar.”

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The Crying of Lot 49

Surprisingly good for a modern novel. The characters beg for observation, not empathy. Oedipa Maas’ quest to figure out the Thurn and Taxis sub rosa postal empire ends with the auctioning off of the stamp collection. No closure, and yet it needs none. The reader does not wonder what happens next, does not care what becomes of Mucho Maas, does not question who is the mysterious bidder for Lot 49. It simply ends. The middle and early sections give a clear picture of the muddled state of late 20th century life in America. Everything is aptly named, from Dr. Hilarius (Oedipa’s shrink) to the Paranoids (the American British rock group), from San Narciso and the Echo Courts hotel to Genghis Cohen the stamp expert. This book dizzies you as you read, but not nauseatingly so. Just enough to make the 6 o’clock cocktails unnecessary.

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