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More pieces about far-flung places by the writer described by Rebecca West as perhaps the best descriptive writer of our more

Product details

  • Hardback | 180 pages
  • 157.48 x 228.6 x 25.4mm | 544.31g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 019503452X
  • 9780195034523

Review Text

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)show more

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46 ratings
3.91 out of 5 stars
5 30% (14)
4 35% (16)
3 30% (14)
2 4% (2)
1 0% (0)
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