Thursday, August 10, 2006

One Thing to Carry On

Now that all those electronic devices that we annoy each other with on airplanes are verboten, guess we’ll have to go back to books. Well, OKAY. (Not okay, actually, but more about that in a minute.)

Seriously, folks, we need to hear from you on what you’re reading, or what you plan to read on your next airplane flight. This must be escapist. No tomes on the Middle East; no copies of the Quran, or however it’s being spelled these days; no “end times” books. It’s gotta be strong enough to carry you mentally away from the slim metal cylinder that your physical self will be traveling in. Gotta be able to make you forget just how fragile the skin of that cylinder is, and how very far away indeed is the ground and all those you love.

Or, if you don’t want even to think about air travel right now, how about books for long car trips. Audiobooks. (Won’t be listening to any of those on the airplane, will we…or at least not on flights to Europe and back.)

You want to know what I’d recommend? Oh, dear. I was afraid you’d ask. Do you ever find that when someone asks you what you’ve read lately, every title flees from memory? Or who’s your favorite author and every name except, maybe, Ernest Hemingway, departs?

Well, here are a couple I’m working on, at present, so they’re sitting on the table beside me:

Ruth Reichl’s Garlic and Sapphires, the Gourmet magazine editor’s account of her years as the restaurant critic for the New York Times which seems to be at least as much about the variety of disguises she assumed as the food she ate. (At the very least it will whet your appetite for when you arrive at your destination.) You’ll be too busy giggling to pay much attention to where you are.

Or Three Junes, by Julia Glass. Won the National Book Award a few years ago. I’ve just started this, but the voice is enveloping and the locales vary from Greece, to Scotland, Greenwich Village and Long Island (according to the back of the jacket). I’ll let you know later what I think.

And now that I think about it, I particularly enjoyed living in New York before World War II with James Thurber’s The Years with Ross. A funny thing about the New Yorker books—and there are enough of them to keep a person busy for months—each author is said by every other author to have invented most of the story. Well, this one will remind you how wonderful and eccentric human beings can be, when they’re not engaged in plotting physical mayhem upon each other.

We will regain a world like that someday, won’t we?


  1. I'm reading Black Swan Green by David Mitchell. It is delightfully escapist, if not a departure from the complex work of Mitchell's other books. A single year in the life of a thirteen-year-old boy in Cold War England, 1982.

    Even those hard-asses at Kirkus gave it a star...calls it:

    "Great Britain's Catcher in the Rye—and another triumph for one of the present age's most interesting and accomplished novelists"

  2. This sounds quite a departure from Cloud Atlas, Chas. I agree with the Kirkus assessment on him and will look for the book.