I'm very pleased that my friend Robyn's question was this week's jumping-off point for book discussion. Sponsored by The Blue Bookcase each week, today's topic is:
What setting (time or place) from a book or story would you most like to visit? Eudora Welty said that, "Being shown how to locate, to place, any account is what does most toward making us believe it...," so in what location would you most like to hang out?Since Welty is a favorite writer of mine and from my adoptive state of Mississippi, I thought this would be easy to answer, but I'm afraid it's not. As a person with white skin, I could drop into many places and times and still have a relatively privileged experience--less so than a white man, certainly, but still. Lots of people romanticize various periods of the past, but I'm not sure I'd want to visit any time period (at least not for very long) where I was still thought of as another person's chattel (or where anybody could be considered someone else's chattel, for that matter). I'd love to visit Pasternak's Russia, Wharton's Italy, Welty's Mississippi, Tolkien's Middle Earth, Montgomery's Prince Edward Island, Austen's English countryside, Rowling's Hogwarts, Elizabeth Peters's Egypt, Alexander McCall Smith's Botswana, Bill Bryson's Australia, and so many more places.
But tonight, in the midst of a nasty snowstorm, I'm going to cut through all of the socio-economic and political ramifications of place and say that where I'd most like to be right now is on a sailboat with Ann Vanderhoof and her husband as they meander through the Caribbean. They're a couple from Toronto who traded in their fast-paced lives to sail from Canada down to Trinidad and back. Twice. Their two memoirs/cookbooks track their experience and I heartily recommend them to anybody who wants to feel the warm tradewinds on her face and scent the jasmine and nutmeg on the evening air. They're exactly where I'd like to be right now!!! What's more, unlike most travel writers who just stick to the glossy brochure version of these mostly third-world islands, they get off the beaten path, beyond the tourist hotels and the Photoshopped beaches, to see how the other half lives. They make friends with the locals, learning their food and their recipes and the culture. They get down & dirty cleaning conch shells with Grenadian fishermen; they clamber over hill and dale in the Dominican Republic to catch goats (who graze on rosemary and are thus more delicious than goats who live in town) to put into a stew; they "shuffle and whine" at a Trinidadian Carnival, getting drenched in beer and sweat and possibly other bodily fluids. If you are an armchair traveler and want to experience the Caribbean, you couldn't do better than to pick up one of these books!