Nowhere in particular Archive

Time travel with The New Yorker

I’ve been travelling quite a bit myself recently, and have only just caught up with a series of short pieces run earlier this month by The New Yorker. Five writers were asked to say what they’d do if they were handed the keys to a time machine. There were some surprising answers.

Nothing much to be said about airports? Think again…

One danger in striving to be topical is that you can get overtaken by events. My monthly books spread for Telegraph Travel — including my choice of the best books about flying — went to press on October 30 — when Virgin Galactic was still looking forward to a launch “in a few months”. The following day one of the company’s spacecraft crashed in the Mojave Desert in California, killing one pilot and injuring another.

I’d mentioned Virgin Galactic because its plans seemed to provide a peg, that device on which journalists are trained from an early age to hang things. But a peg wasn’t really necessary. Nor is it needed for any of the pieces I’ve just found on the site of The Sun, an online magazine based in North Carolina. All of them relate to airports, and all of them are written by the magazine’s talented readers.

Travels through the Poetry Archive

I’ve argued here before (and no doubt will again) that poetry shouldn’t be forgotten in any talk of what constitutes travel writing. It can evoke the highs and lows of life on the road, the joys and disappointments, the longing to escape, as crisply as it conjures places. For some reminders of that, dip into the redesigned version of the online Poetry Archive, which Andrew Motion was commending in The Guardian last weekend. You could start with Leontia Flynn’s “The Furthest Distances I’ve Travelled”, or Brian Patten’s “Geography Lesson”.

Alternatively, try keying, say, “places” or “travel” into the search engine. Once you’ve read or listened to a poem (or done both at the same time), you’ll see a panel headed “Where next?”, with a suggestion that might take you further down the road you’re on or abruptly in a different direction. It’s the perfect vehicle for virtual travel.

One gripe: the proof-reading isn’t up to the standards of the poems. On Leontia Flynn’s page, for example, pretension is rendered pretention, and a word the poet reads as “led” appears in the written version in the present tense.

Travelling into the future

How do you search for time travellers? You could do what Stephen Hawking did, and throw a party for them, but not send out the invitation until after the event had taken place. Or you could do what two scientists from Michigan Techonological University did: look  for knowledge of the future in postings on the internet. The Economist, on its blog, reports their findings.

Journey without words

In common with many American boys born in the wake of the Apollo space missions, Aaron Becker wanted to be an astronaut. Then he discovered that that would entail military training and a lot of hard work, so he started drawing outer space instead. I’ve just come across his latest project, Journey, online. Deskbound Traveller is  dedicated to painting worlds with words and pictures; Journey is a reminder that sometimes you can get away (in both senses) with no words at all. Just the thing for the junior traveller.

JOURNEY by Aaron Becker (release trailer) from Aaron Becker on Vimeo.

125 years of ‘National Geographic’

National Geographic has been going a little longer than Deskbound Traveller – since 1888  (and is considerably better resourced). Pictures from its phenomenal archive are being published by the art-book publisher Taschen in three volumes titled Around the World in 125 Years, a selection from which has appeared this weekend both in Telegraph Travel and The Guardian. In the latter, the essayist Pico Iyer, a regular contributor to National Geographic, says that “the golden rectangle” has sometimes looked square, but at its best it has been a publication where “American art and science married and produced triplets”.

Welcome to Deskbound Traveller

Welcome to the opening day of Deskbound Traveller, a new home for travel storytelling. It’s going to be an accommodating home, roomy enough for geography, history, natural history, autobiography, memoir and verse, as well as a few fibs. The “About” page will tell you more.

Today I am publishing extracts from the joint winners of this year’s Dolman Travel Book Award, Britain’s only prize specifically for narrative travel writing: Sightlines by Kathleen Jamie and The Old Ways by Robert Macfarlane. The passage from the former has inspired and is accompanied by an illustration from the artist Paul Cox, the man responsible for Deskbound Traveller’s beautiful banner.

Under  “New writing” you will also find an extract from Peter Levi’s The Light Garden of the Angel King, a portrait of Afghanistan which, if not quite new, has just been reissued by Eland Books and reads as freshly now as it did on its first appearance in 1972.

Under “Picture stories” you will find images of this year’s monsoon in Bangladesh by GMB Akash, a past winner of the Travel Photographer of the Year prize (coupled with a passage from Alexander Frater’s Chasing The Monsoon, a book that makes you positively want to get soaked), and drawings made in Syria by George Butler, a talented and courageous artist specialising in travel and current affairs.

Over the next few days I will be adding extracts from two titles that were shortlisted for the Dolman Travel Book Award: The Robber of Memories by Michael Jacobs and Meander by Jeremy Seal (both are about river journeys, one in Colombia, the other in Turkey).

I will also be publishing new poems with a strong sense of place from collections by Maurice Riordan (The Water Stealer) and Helen Mort (Division Street), both of which have been shortlisted for this year’s T S Eliot Prize. Over the next few weeks and months, I’m planning, too, to add work by novelists and short-story writers. Fiction, after all, is the greatest form of transport we have.

If you like what you find here, please spread the word, and (Christmas is coming) buy the books, pictures and illustrations you see featured.

Eine Kleine Airlinemusik

Most of us, when asked what we would like to see changed in modern-day flying, would concentrate on seat pitches and security. Harry Eyres, in the FT, has another concern: “those supposedly relaxing ditties played just before take-off and after landing”.

Alice Munro and keeping it short

munrocoverBrevity doesn’t win many literary awards. That explains much of the delight yesterday that the Nobel Prize for Literature went to
Alice Munro, a writer who has dedicated herself to the short story.

While Deskbound Traveller is dedicated to narrative travel writing, I don’t believe that travel stories have to be long. Entries to Just Back, Telegraph Travel’s weekly competition for writing by our readers, run to no more than 500 words. You can transport your readers in that space, even if you yourself have done nothing more exotic than drive from Birmingham to the Welsh border or cycle from Dieppe to Paris. There’s an entry I still return to with pleasure three years after we chose it as  our Just Back of the year.

Checking in with Dr Jekyll… and Mr Hyde

How would the reviews read on TripAdvisor if a b&b were run alternately by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde? That’s what Kate Hahn imagines in this piece for the literary magazine McSweeney’s.