Sunday, June 12, 2011

Vicarious Travel

It's always wonderful to get a chance to go away on vacation, a change of scenery, different people.  Nicer still is the opportunity to shed household responsibilities, childcare responsibilities, and the constant burden of one's job.  Unfortunately, we're not all so lucky.  While it would be a treat to spend a few days on a tropical island, or touring a beautiful cosmopolitan city, some of us have to resort to other means of getting away -- a vacation of the mind, as it were.

There are some really diverting books available which, if read during a calm moment, in a quiet spot, can take you away in spirit if not corporeally.  This week I spent time in Hawaii, in a book entitled Unfamiliar Fishes.  Really a history of the American takeover of the island, the author tries to get under the skin of Hawaiian culture and succeeds in taking the reader with her.  I never did know much about our 50th state, and I didn't have much interest, but this book successfully sucked me in.

Ireland Unhinged, by a writer who transplanted his family from Connecticut to Cork, is another matter.  This is more like travel writing, with a bit of history and a lot of humor thrown in.  Again, a topic in which I had no previous interest, but the book held me until the last page.

To go to India without the inconveniences of unreliable electric and water service (not to mention the pollution), read Sideways on a Scooter, written by a journalist who spends time living in Delhi and is enraptured by the country.  Her experiences discovering quite how deeply the concept of caste is still embedded, and how marriages take place, are worth reading.  One comes away with, perhaps, a less than wholly positive opinion of the writer, but no matter -- it's a very readable book.

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