By Larry Johnson
Not every one of the 23 travel narratives in this collection is going to hit home for every reader, but many will, and that makes this anthology well worth checking out from the library. if not purchasing.
Personally, I bought it, and for a little more than 10 bucks, I got to take a bunch of “trips” while I was parked in a big overstuffed easy chair for the COVID-19 virus lockdown.
My personal favorite in this collection is Albino Ochero-Okello’s “Arrival.” He’s a Ugandan refugee who offers his story of seeking asylum in London. What makes the story so wonderful is its deadpan style. Immigration, especially under these circumstances, can be fraught with high drama, but Ochero-Okello simply tells the reader what happened without embellishment. That makes the telling more effective.
Paul Theroux is one of my favorite travel writers and he doesn’t disappoint with “Trespass.” In his story, he basically trades beer and baubles for sex, and ends up being held as a sort of prisoner by the Malawian couple he exploits at the beginning of the piece. I was glad he escaped, or there wouldn’t have been a lot of excellent Theroux travel books. But it was a neat turning of the tables.
Sex tourism in Thailand is described at length in Decca Aitkenhead’s “Lovely Girls, Very Cheap.” Aitkenhead also looks at the impacts of mass tourism beyond the sex trade, and having seen some of the epicenters of European tourism explode over the past decade or so, I found it compelling and thoughtful.
“Airds Moss” by Kathleen Jamie describes the author’s return to the Scottish mining region where she partly grew up. It’s thoughtful and offers some insights into a region I never knew existed, and I really love Scotland — partly for the language, which Jamie recreates faithfully here.
Also included are a story about a trip to Anarctica, where the author steals a biscuit from a turn-of-the century explorer’s hut, and a piece about a trip by submarine to the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean in a cramped submarine.
Even though I was stuck in this hideous overstuffed chair for the past several weeks, I got to visit a bunch of places I’ll probably never physically see, and I have Granta’s latest travel book to thank for that.