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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.

On the road with Donald Fagen – and Jim Reeves

EminentHipstersjktThe touring musician isn’t a figure who features often in the travel pages. Why not? I’ve been dipping into Eminent Hipsters by Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, which is just out in paperback from Vintage. The second half of it is a wonderfully cranky diary of a cross-country tour he made with Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs, an account of the places where they played and the places where they stayed (“This room in the Hyatt is dang ugly, cowboy. Isn’t there some design rule that says the floral pattern on the wallpaper can’t be duplicated on the carpet? I feel like I’m living inside one of my aunt Lotty’s doilies.”).

That reminded me of a lovely piece I came across a while ago by Rick Bass. It’s a fictionalised account of a tour by a young musical family, the Browns, who were taken on as a support act by Jim Reeves and his wife. Having never been more than 50 miles from their home in Sparkman, Arkansas, they set off with their mentors for the Pacific Northwest. Maxine, the eldest of the Browns at 21, finds herself “in a continent as wild as her dreams”. You can read the piece, an extract from one of Bass’s novels, on the website of Big Sky Journal.

A long, dizzy love affair with the wild

It’s just over 50 years since the passing of the Wilderness Act in the United States. The environmentalist and writer Gary Ferguson, who was eight years old then, recalls a time when “nature was on the run”, when the ponds and channels he and his brother swam in were “thick with the tang of dioxins”. In Big Sky Journal, he considers what’s been achieved since, and  celebrates Americans’ “long, dizzy love affair with unfettered landscapes”.

High stakes in Peru

There was an excellent piece by Daniel Silas Adamson in yesterday’s travel section of The Guardian on what could be lost (and gained) if a project goes ahead in the Peruvian Andes to build a cable car to the Inca site of Choquequirao, the “sister” of Machu Picchu. There’s a slightly longer version on his own site, which is worth exploring.

On the highway with Heat-Moon

Reading a new book for review, I came across a reference to Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon, first published in 1982, which I’d read about before but not read. I want to read it now, having found an extract on the website of NPR. The author says “life doesn’t happen along the interstates”, which is why he set out to explore America by driving on the smallest roads he could find. He went “Into the sticks, the boondocks, the burgs, backwaters, jerkwaters, the wide-spots-in-the-road, the don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-it towns. Into those places where you say, ‘My god! What if you lived here!’ The Middle of Nowhere.”

NPR’s proofreaders must have had the day off, for the extract is littered with words and phrases runtogetherlikethis. But it’s still a treat.


Capturing Carpathia in pen and ink

The illustrator and traveller George Butler, whose work among Syrian refugees has featured on Deskbound Traveller, has a new show opening in London next week. He was commissioned to document local life in the Carpathian villages of Romania (including Bunesti, below) by the Global Heritage Fund UK, which is working there to preserve vernacular architecture and revive sustainable building methods. I’ve written a short preview, which will appear on Telegraph Travel. For details of the show, see the site of the Romanian Cultural Institute in London.


Telling rooms

Nathan Heller, having scanned the bookshelves and rifled the cupboards, writes a character sketch of his Airbnb host in Berlin for The New Yorker.

Salgado back in London

If you were lucky enough to see the exhibition “Genesis” by Sebastião Salgado earlier this year at the Natural History Museum in London, you will know it was a powerful reminder of the power of black-and-white photography.  Pictures from that project, plus others from his 40-year career, can be seen in a new show opening at the Beetles and Huxley gallery in London on Wednesday. For details, see my piece for Telegraph Travel.

An early word on the new Macfarlane

However Robert Macfarlane chose to follow his loose trilogy of books about landscape, he could expect to have readers waiting and ready to order. The latest book, Landmarks, is not due to be published until March, but there’s now a teasing summary on Penguin’s blog from one of the few people who has already read it: Simon Prosser, publishing director of Hamish Hamilton, which published Macfarlane’s last book, The Old Ways, in hardback.

Remembering the fall of the Berlin Wall

To mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9), two writers who have chronicled events in the city will be in conversation with Colin Thubron, president of the Royal Society of Literature, from 7pm in London on Friday, November 7. They are Maxim Leo, who grew up in east Berlin and who tells in Red Love how the GDR still haunts his family; and Rory MacLean, whose Berlin: Imagine a City was hailed by Jan Morris in The Sunday Telegraph as “a wonderful achievement… hauntingly representing, as in a tangled dream, 600 years of history”. The event is free, but early booking is essential; see