There’s an interesting interview in the The Scotsman on Sunday with the novelist and, more famously, travel-writer, Jenny Diski, whose “award-winning travel books, Skating to Antarctica (1997) and Stranger on a Train (2002) … consolidated her reputation as a writer of uncompromising honesty and beauty. And as one who almost transformed the travel genre single-handedly, giving us as many personal glimpses as geographical ones.”
The great irony of this writer follows:
So it comes a something of a shock to hear her confess she doesn’t even like travelling very much. “I’m always baffled by travelling, I can’t see the point of it,” she says. “Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve seen more clearly on TV or in my head!” And she cites as an example, missing out on a day trip to the glow-worm caves in Te Anau, in New Zealand. Holed up, ill, in her hotel room, she read the brochure about them instead. “It was a wonderful piece of writing, all about the pleasure of the imagination. Travel is an act of imagination - it’s supposed to be about going somewhere but there’s always the possibility you could make it up.”
“Susan Sontag says travel writing is always about disappointment,” Diski continues. “Disappointment’s important because it keeps us going, the fear of disappointment is what makes us get up in the morning. But I’m really a very inactive person, I like reading about ideas, about what people make of what happens. That’s just more interesting than actually doing it.
Anyway, it’s an interesting interview. I don’t personally know Diski’s work, but I’m interested now. Her most recent book, On Trying To Keep Still, deals with this very subject, her fight against the necessity of traveling.