The New Granta Book of Travel

ISBN 13: 9781847083302

The New Granta Book of Travel

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9781847083302: The New Granta Book of Travel

Granta has long been known for the quality of its travel writing. The 1980s were the culmination of a golden age, when writers including Paul Theroux and Bruce Chatwin, James Hamilton-Paterson and James Fenton set out to document life in largely unfamiliar territory, bringing back tales of the beautiful, the extraordinary and the unexpected. By the mid 1990s, travel writing seemed to change, as a younger generation of writeres that appeared in the magazine made journeys for more complex and often personal reasons. Decca Aitkenhead reported on sex tourism in Thailand, and Wendell Steavenson moved to Iraq as foreign correspondent. What all these pieces have in common is a sense of engagement with the places they describe, and a belief that whether we are in Birmingham or Belarus, there is always something new to be discovered.

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About the Author:

LIZ JOBEY was the Deputy Editor of Granta 1998-2002 and before that was Editor of the Independent on Sunday Review and Literary Editor of the Guardian. She is the editor of Are We Related?: The New Granta Book of the Family and currently works as a freelance journalist.

JONATHAN RABAN'S writing has won many prizes including the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Heinemann Award, and the Thomas Cook Award. He is the author, most recently, of Driving Home: An American Scrapbook (2010).

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

MISSISSIPPI WATER by Jonathan Raban

Flying to Minneapolis from the West, you see it as a theological
problem.
The great flat farms of Minnesota are laid out in a ruled grid, as
empty of surprises as a sheet of graph paper. Every gravelled path,
every ditch has been projected along the latitude and longitude lines
of the township-and-range-survey system. The farms are square, the
fields are square, the houses are square; if you could pluck their roofs
off from over people’s heads, you’d see families sitting at square tables
in the dead centre of square rooms. Nature has been stripped, shaven,
drilled, punished and repressed in this right-angled, right-thinking
Lutheran country. It makes you ache for the sight of a rebellious curve
or the irregular, dappled colour of a field where a careless farmer has
allowed corn and soybeans to cohabit.
But there are no careless farmers on this flight path. The landscape
is open to your inspection – as to God’s – as an enormous advertisement
for the awful rectitude of the people. There are no funny
goings-on down here, it says; we are plain upright folk, fit candidates
for heaven.
Then the river enters the picture – a broad serpentine shadow that
sprawls unconformably across the checkerboard. Deviously winding,
riddled with black sloughs and green cigar-shaped islands, the
Mississippi looks as if it had been put here to teach the god-fearing
Midwest a lesson about stubborn and unregenerate nature. Like John
Calvin’s bad temper, it presents itself as the wild beast in the heart of
the heartland.

 

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