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Stranger On A Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America [Paperback]

Jenny Diski
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
RRP: £9.99
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Book Description

15 Jan 2004
In spite of the fact that her idea of travel is to stay home with the phone off the hook, Jenny Diski takes a trip around the perimeter of the USA by train. Somewhat reluctantly she meets all kinds of characters, all bursting with stories to tell and finds herself brooding about the marvellously familiar landscape of America, half-known already through film and television. Like the pulse of the train over the rails, the theme of the dying pleasures of smoking thrums through the book, along with reflections on the condition of solitude and the nature of friendship and memories triggered by her past times in psychiatric hospitals. Cutting between her troubled teenaged years and contemporary America, the journey becomes a study of strangers, strangeness and estrangement - from oneself, as well as from the world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New Ed edition (15 Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860499953
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860499951
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 175,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Her writing is sensitive, sincere and sparkling. (Morning Star)

(Diski's) near-erotic musings on the dreaded weed almost made me want to take up smoking again. And that's saying something. (Irish Times)

Beautifully written (Times)

Book Description

* Follows the prize winning memoir, Skating to Antarctica.

* The story of her troubled teenage years in and out of psychiatric institutions intercut with a contemporary tale of travelling across America by train, surrounded by strangers.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much more than a travel book! 9 July 2004
This is NOT a travel book! This is people watching by words - in her unmistakeable individual style Jenny Diski 'talks' to you on such a level that you often feel like her thoughts are actually yours and you forget you are reading at all! I read this book on holiday and came home feeling more like I had been on a train in the USA for a week than on a beach! Her reminicenses of her past are touching and poignant. You finish this book feeling like this excentric, rather neurotic lady is your friend, and her journey, yours. A highly addictive book, I would recommend this to anyone who has ever found themselves transfixed by the actions of a complete stranger, no matter how mundane they may be.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Again, this book shows Jenny Diski's ability to tell a vivid, real life account, whil mixing in memories from her youth. She manages to see the positive in both cases and reminds us to learn from every experience. She inspires me to take time out to daydream and to keep an open mind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like a bowl of luscious sharp cherries. 17 April 2013
What an amazing work, I thought this would be a travel book in the same style as Paul Theroux or similar, it is, but it is also so much more than that. Like "Catcher in the Rye" Jenny's dialogue confirms to you that there are people who really do think like you do, who experience life as you do,that what goes on behind the eyes really can be very profound indeed.The book overflows with her warmth and humanity,but there is a good sharp bite with some of her observations giving a real depth to her writing.She generously allows us a rare intimacy with her life that is hard to find, even in autobiography. An exceptional book that you will want to share with others.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful 3 Mar 2007
Loved this. Picked it up at random in the library and as soon as I finished it I went back to borrow Nothing Natural which I enjoyed just as much! There was something in both books that really spoke to me. Am about to start reading Like Mother, hope it's just as good!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read 25 Jan 2014
By Colin
It has been a few years since I read this book, I was travelling on Amtrak from Seattle to Chicago so it caught my eye. As others have said its a book about people watching. Jenny Diski has a talent, not just for observation, but for bringing alive the characters she meets on the train, making the mundane journey compelling and totally readable. I loved also the way that She loved travelling but seemed to dislike travel, liked people watching but desired solitude. The story of the train trips intermingled with the autobiographical aspects of her early life.
Still my favourite travel book, partly because its less an observation on travel and more an observation on her life and of those she meets.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring 19 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I would recommend this book to everyone. Travel writing never usually appeals to me, nor do biographies, and yet the mix between both genres throughout this book is utterly brilliant. It's captivating, witty, enjoyable and has inspired a lot of writing from me. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time.
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4.0 out of 5 stars novel autobiography 2 April 2012
By Austin
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this because it was recommended by my creative writing tutor, we were doing a unit on autobiography and she read some of it in a tutorial. It combines travel writing with her autobiography.
I found the structure really interesting, she related a meeting with a stranger during her travels, which in turn would provoke a memory from her life. You become interested in her journey around America for the insight on American train travel and her life is drip fed without much initial explanation, you have to piece it together.
It's quite introspective, philosophical and it isn't a fast paced page turner, but I enjoyed it. Much more than some of the other celebrity autobiography's I've also read as research and seemed plodding and dull chronologies by comparison.
I'd recomend it, but stick with the first few chapters as I do think it's an acquired taste.
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