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  • [es-pree de less-ka/-iay] (idiom) A witty remark that occurs to you too late, literally on the way down the stairs. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations defines esprit de l'escalier as, "An untranslatable phrase, the meaning of which is that one only thinks on one's way downstairs of the smart retort one might have made in the drawing room."


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« Could this be spring? | Main | Travel plans »

March 13, 2007


Well, I'm generally pro-Quixote, but I think it might be too formidable for travel reading. When I'm going to be reading in the airport, I usually choose something that I know I can get absorbed in really easily, because otherwise I just get too distracted by all the activity around me. I like to travel with my Narnia paperbacks because they're small (good for packing) and can suck me in instantly with a minimum of mental effort. Last time I came to Chicago I went through two of them.

As far as recommendations go, have you read any Joseph Campbell? I like to say that he would be my guru if not for the fact that he seems to think having a guru is a bad idea. :)

Kristin, that's exactly what I was afraid of, with the Quixote. Maybe I could bring along some Dickens? Our Mutual Friend is lo-o-ong. Damn, I don't think my Dickens buffs have been reading this lately. Maybe I'll go tap at their windows and see if they come round.

I recommend going to The Brown Elephant and browsing through used paperbacks for 50 cents. They always have a ton of mystery novels, which would be my choice. If you're staying in a hostel, you will undoubtedly be able to shed the books there.

Otherwise, John Irving is pretty good for traveling. I read "The World According to Garp" on a train in Europe and enjoyed that.

On my long trip to Poland, I read "Le Diable s'habille en Prada," which was very enjoyable in French.

You should absolutely take lots of small paperbacks. Because let me say this - when I was trapped in Russia, the only books in English that I could get a hold of were ones that people either donated or abandoned at the airport. Besides, foreign language books are expensive everywhere, so some Chinese kid would probably really appreciate them.

I think you should bring a Hitchhiker's Guide. Because someone left that in an airport in Russia. Thanks to that person, I now know how to say "fart" in Russian. Besides, Douglas Adams is a good stamp for you, Claire.

I just returned from vacation and read a few good books. My favorite was Zorro by Isabelle Allende in paperback.

I totally vote for a gripping paperback that will help you look forward to the plane and bus rides between your other exciting adventures!

Just a possibility, as I have never traveled much. But one year my mother and father were supposed to go to Greece. Three days before the trip, my dad was called in for some big business deal. So my mother took me. I read "War and Peace" during that trip and loved every minute of it. Of course, the alternative was chatting with my mother. When I was younger I could never get through "Anna Karenina" because she was such a dumb chick. But the translation that came out a few years ago, by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky totally sucked me. It depends on what kind of reader you are. Mid-way through almost any book, crowds,traffic, noise--nothing bothers me. Starting on page one, though, I probably would find Tolstoy a bit of an adjustment. My husband can read anything, at any time and any place. If you decide to take one book, Tolstoy really is as great as his biggest fans say.

Take only books that make you laugh. My choice would be travel books by Paul Theroux. He never has anything good to say about anyone which makes him one of my all time favorites. Try "Happy Isles of Oceania". Another excellent choice would be "The Ends of the Earth" by Robert Kaplan - simply for its weirdness; particularly about Africa. (It will make you happy you are traveling to the known center of the universe.) He also has some good pointers about crossing borders. Forget Don Quixote, any classic or anything Russian. And do buy books you can shed along the way; great idea. Love, M

Personally, I pack paperbacks that I claim I'll unload afterwards rather than drag home--but I never do. I was thinking it might be good to read or re-read Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, there may be some parallels about living in a place where you don't feel you belong. How about one of May Sarton's journals or something big by Doris Lessing? Nadine Gortimer also comes to mind.

I love the idea of your bringing travel writing about the place that you are going to and doing reviews!

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