Top positive review
21 people found this helpful
The familiar as strange; the strange as familiar
on 6 June 2002
Ranging from Cuba to Caher Island, whale watching in Quebec to trekking the Tien Shan mountains of Kyrgyzstan, biking on a Harley through the American West to searching out the Franklin Graves in the High Arctic - this collection of Jim Perrin's travel writings does not fail to inspire. These essays exhibit all the hallmarks of the Perrin style: a self-conscious quest for the correct word or phrase and a rigorous honesty born of meticulous observation - all senses alert to the quirkily human and the strangely divine.
No subject is too arcane or too everyday, too sophisticated or too street, to escape the egalitarian sweep of his prose, encompassing everything from an encounter with a drug-carrying biker chick - "a gold bar skewered through her right nipple" - to a meditation on the Welsh writer Caradoc Evans, "the Hieronymous Bosch of the printed word". Eclectic literary touchstones are evident as always - peppered references include Thomas Traherne and Thomas Hardy, Dylan Thomas and Bob Dylan, Krishnamurti and R.D.Laing - but there are also face-to-face meetings with fellow travel writers Jonathan Raban, Jan Morris, Barry Lopez and Dervla Murphy. Not to mention mystical moments on foot in the animal world - a lone wolf in Montana and the mythic rapport with a Bangor raven...
From beat raps on cafe-life in Machynlleth and bar-life in Budapest to poetic disquisitions on the subtle nuances of landscape, Perrin's elegant cadences rise and fall, from the classical to the demotic, from grouchy rant to romantic rhapsody, from abrasive critique to exquisitely delicate nature description. He gets right under the skin of a milieu, its character and culture - no more so than in Wales, his adoptive homeland - "All roads in my life seem to have led to Wales" - where you witness his true love and passion, expressed in the long final sequence "Travels With The Flea", which culminates in a heartfelt obituary to his faithful terrier,The Flea, a constant companion for 17 years, and concludes that "Love in its every form...is our truest point of connection into the world we inhabit."
For intellectuals you have here the postmodernist pilgrim par excellence. For the rest of us you have a damn fine author who is just as much at home eavesdropping on Welsh National Milk Bar chat as musing on corpse-burning on the banks of the Ganges at Varanasi. Read and enjoy. All life is here...