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Stranger On A Train: Daydreaming and Smoking Around America Paperback – 15 Jan 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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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: 13 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 93,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

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

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jenny is given a simple brilliant opportunity to ride the train around the USA and write a travelogue of her ensuing adventures, and she's a good writing. She's engaging and makes the monotony of the travel interesting by talking about her life so far. But, it's a wasted opportunity. This book could have been so much better. I wanted to learn more about the train, the country, the towns she passed through. Instead I get a story interpreted by the authors addiction to cigarettes and mental health issues, (I understand this would be a difficult situation to override such personal demons) it never the less interrupted the flow of the words, and the end of the book seemed squeezed. In all it was a dissapointing read, but perhaps because the beginning was quite good, or the authors talent obvious.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
This is only the second book I’ve read by Jenny Diski. I’d already read “The Sixties” and was curious to read another book by her.

It is an account of two extended train journeys in the USA. The first begins on a freighter across the Atlantic then takes trains from Savannah, Georgia to Tucson, Arizona. The second is even more ambitious: a round trip starting in New York and heading anticlockwise around the USA via Portland, Sacramento and Albuqerque. The main setting throughout these journeys is the smoking compartment (or equivalent) set aside for smokers and the interaction of those taking refuge within it. This environment is so well portrayed that I could smell the cigarette ash, see the drifting haze of smoke, sense the tired boredom of the occupants, visualise the varied conversations.

The book is both a hymn to the ritual of smoking and a meditation on the importance of a boundary between self and other. It becomes clear as Jenny’s daydreaming leads to reminiscences about her childhood and adolescence, that her need to maintain a distance from others in these superficially routine smoking compartment interactions, is no mere philosophical affectation but a deadly earnest struggle for survival of “self” rooted in an emotionally traumatic childhood and exemplified by significant in-patient psychiatric admissions (age 14/15, 1962, 5 months; age 20, 1967, 4 months; age 21, 1968, 9 months). This continued fear of intrusion from others adds an urgency and interest to her account that makes this much more than yet another travel book fulfilling a contractual obligation. Even the circuit of the USA has its parallels with how at age thirteen she would routinely spend all day travelling the London Underground Circle Line on its continuous circular route.
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