Good travel writers must push through their vague, cliché, and even racist presuppositions about a foreign place. ~Arron Hamburger, The Matador Network
I found a French book club here in Seattle. I know, I can’t get much more pretentious, could I?
It would be easy to give up French, to let it slip from my memory here in Seattle and forget that I still can’t tell the difference in sound between an accent agiu or an accent grave or that yesterday, I said, “page soixante-dice-sept.” Embarrassing.
Now that I can make a decent sentence, I refuse to put French into storage with a pile of things I used to do: Breed swordtails. Play the flute. Drink vodka straight.
Anyway, we’re reading L’engime du Retour by Dany Laferrière. Even though I only understand about 70-80% of it sans dictionaire, I can tell the writing is beautiful.
He captures the perpetual snow of Montreal and contrasts it with the vibrant tropics of Haiti, his home country. Even thought the words aren’t in my native tongue, I am right there with the author, watching the snow collect on windowsills in Montreal or birds fly overhead in Haiti.
I may never be able to capture a place the way he does, but I have learned through trial and error (mostly error) what not to do when it comes to travel writing. I put together a list to help some of you break into this glamourous world of small paychecks and (sometimes) free hotel rooms. Continue reading