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Contact!: A Book of Encounters Hardcover – 14 May 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 202 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 1 edition (14 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393076407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393076400
  • Product Dimensions: 1.5 x 0.2 x 2.2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,965,493 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


The most delightful, intelligent, perception collection of human observations I've ever read: I don't know of anything like it. --Alberto Manguel, author of A Reader on Reading"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Any who have enjoyed her nonfiction will relish this! 9 Aug 2010
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Contact! A Book of Encounters offers moments of prose that capture moments of travel encounters in a paragraph or two. From Harry Truman to an Indian civil servant and an Egyptian beggar, any interested in either travel or the human condition will find this a fine survey of Jan Morris' many encounters on the path to exploring world cultures. Any who have enjoyed her nonfiction will relish this!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Far and away the best waiting room companion and thumb-twiddling preventer ever 30 Mar 2012
By Sharon Isch - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Jan (formerly James) Morris is probably the best read travel writer in the world today. Over the years, her keenly observant eye has caught and her pen captured lots and lots of small but interesting little vignettes--some she's participated in, some just observed from a distance. This book is a compilation of hundreds of them--some just a few lines long, none longer than a page. Read one, stop, stare off into space and think about it a bit, move on to the next, then think on it too. Chances are, every now and then, one of Morris's encounters will bring to mind something equally interesting but long forgotten from your own past. And maybe you'll go home and write it down and before long you'll be well into creating your own journal of encounters...a reminder that your own life's been an interesting one, too.

One of the most useful things about this otherwise randomly assembled collection, particularly for travelers, is the index. Just pick a topic and you'll find the page numbers for all encounters that touch on that topic. For example, here's one titled Only in London: "I was sitting over my croissant and the morning paper in a coffee shop in Marylebone High Street when a tall elegant man in late middle age walked stiffly in and ordered a cup of coffee. He wore a long dark coat and a trilby tilted over his brow, and I rather think spectacles were inclined towards the end of his nose. He looked to me as though he had enjoyed perhaps rather too good a dinner the night before, but he emanated an air of unconcerned, if not actually oblivious, composure. I put him down for some mildly eccentric and very likely scholarly earl, of the Irish peerage, perhaps, and thought to myself that only in London could one still see such a genial figure, at once so urbane and so well used, more or less direct from the eighteenth century. 'Know who that was?' said the proprietor, when the man had walked perhaps a little shakily out again. 'That was Peter O'Toole. Remember him in Lawrence of Arabia?'"
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Slender but Perceptive 3 Dec 2013
By P. Velasquez - Published on Amazon.com
A slender volume about the people Jan Morris has met or glimpsed during her world-wide passages. It's a bit like watching a slide show, but it offers ample proof that Morris is not just a writer of evocative places. In a few deft sentences she can bring to life a pedestrian she has spotted from her seat in a passing bus. Contact is a pleasant companion to her larger books - the heart-wrenching "Trieste" or the mind-blowing "Conundrum", to cite two of my favorites.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Morris captures a life of travel...sometimes in one sentence. 16 Jan 2013
By Pamela S. Peniston - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
I was first introduced to Jan Morris' writing when in Italy and some Brits learned I didn't know her and I was heading to Venice. They couldn't recommend her book Venice highly enough and right there on Campo San Margherita, I found and bought an English edition. I read Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere next and then Conundrum, her frank and wonderful account of her sex-change operation and the thought and difficult decisions that preceded it (she and her ex-wife recently remarried now that same sex marriage is legal there).

But this book has quickly sped to the top of the charts for me. She captures vignettes from 60 years of travel of her interactions with people--sometimes in one long and perfect sentence, sometimes in a page and a half, never longer. Her encounters--her contact with people--are so rich and rewarding to read because they capture a time, place and moment in her life and in the life of the person she is with or viewing with such perfect clarity and such beautiful writing.

We read a few of these each night before bed out loud to one another. Sometimes we have to read an extra because the mood is so sad or chilling or because it's so simple and lovely (look out for the one with the old woman selling flowers by the side of the rode) that I'm in tears.

So if you cherish superb writing, views of faraway places & people and insight into an extraordinary writer--please buy this book!
4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Short encounters 27 April 2010
By wogan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jan Morris has lived an interesting life, she is a gender re-assigned woman, who published under her former name, "James Morris" until the 1970s. She writes in 'Contact' that she has written little of people, so this book is her remembrances. There is no chronological or geographic order which creates a jumpy reading and thought processes.
Most of the very short writings tell of encounters, but there seems to be a condescending attitude to most that she encounters. There is nothing in each description of the essence or atmosphere that a reader can identify with.
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