Thursday, September 25, 2014

Travel companions

[....] Charles hated flying. He hated the whole business - the queues, the claustrophobia, the take-off, the sound of the wheels retracting, the bullying music, the seat belts, the staff's psychotic switching from servility to contemptuous indifference. It was bad enough setting off to somewhere reasonable, like Paris or New York or Los Angeles. But Baldai - no, crazy.

Margaret Drabble, A Natural Curiosity(1989)

In a fortnight I'm setting off to somewhere reasonable - Frankfurt, to the Book Fair - but I'm going much further than Charles is: Paris, New York or Los Angeles from London. Pah! And I hate flying. It's the reason I haven't been to Europe for well over 30 years. I think. Sometimes I think that I merely found staying at home writing and reading and gardening interesting enough.

My trip will involve leaving Wongavale (somewhere quite unreasonable) to arrive at the Gold Coast in time for an earlyish flight. Then after an unreasonably long wait at Sydney(due to the BA/Qantas thing) I leave for Heathrow, and from there to Frankfurt. I'm not even counting up the time.

I will need companions to comfort and distract me.  I've chosen three books:

The Subterraneans, by Jack Kerouac (1958), a re-read:

Once I was young and had so much more orientation and I could talk with nervous intelligence about everything and with clarity and without as much literary preambling as this; in other words this is the story of an unself-confident man, at the same time of an egomaniac, naturally, facetious won't do - just to start at the beginning and let the truth seep out, that's what I'll do -.  It began on a war summernight - ah, she was sitting on a fender with Julien Alexander who is ... let me begin with a history of the subterraneans of San Francisco ...

Faces in the Water, by Janet Frame (1961):

After the doctor performed the last shock treatment of the morning he used to go with Matron Glass and Sister Honey for morning tea in Sister's office where he sat in the best chair brought in from the adjoining room called the "mess-room" where visitors were sometimes received. Dr. Howell drank from the special cup which was tied around the handle with red cotton to distinguish the staff cups from those of the patients, and thus prevent the exchange of diseases like boredom loneliness authoritarianism. Dr. Howell was young catarrhal plump pale-faced (we called him Scone) short-sighted sympathetic overworked with his fresh enthusiasm quickly perishing under concentrated stress, like a new plane that is put in a testing chamber simulating the conditions of millions of miles of flying and in a few hours suffers the metal fatigue of years.

Beat Writers at Work, Edited by George Plimpton (The Paris Review Interviews) (1999):

Ginsberg:    [...]   You have many writers who have preconceived ideas about what literature is supposed to be, and their ideas seem to exclude that which makes them most charming in private conversations. Their faggishness, or their campiness, or their neurasthenia, or their solitude, or their goofiness, or their - even- masculinity, at times.  Because they think that they're gonna write something that sounds like something else that they've read before, instead of sounds like them. Or comes from their own life. In other words, there's no distinction, there should be no distinction between what we write down, and what we really know, to begin with. As we know it every day, with each other. And the hypocrisy of literature has been - you know like there's supposed to be formal literature, which is supposed to be different from ... in subject, in diction and even in organization, from our quotidian inspired lives.

It's also like in Whitman, "I find no fat sweeter than that which sticks to my own bones," that is to say the self-confidence of someone who knows that he's really alive, and that his existence is just as good as any other subject matter.

I could make no better description of the books of Jack Kerouac and Janet Frame than Ginsberg's words, as quoted above.

With companions like these, I think I'll travel well.

1 comment:

  1. travel safe Jo. Look forward to hearing about your adventures. XX