“All tourists cherish an illusion, of which no amount of experience can ever completely cure them; they imagine that they will find time, in the course of their travels, to do a lot of reading. They see themselves, at the end of a day’s sightseeing or motoring, or while they are sitting in the train, studiously turning over the pages of all the vast and serious works which, at ordinary seasons, they never find time to read. They start for a fortnight’s tour in France, taking with them The Critique of Pure Reason, Appearance and Reality, the complete works of Dante, and the Golden Bough. They come home to make the discovery that they have read something less than half a chapter of the Golden Bough and the first fifty- two lines of the Inferno. But that does not prevent them from taking just as many books the next time they set out on their travels.
Long experience has taught me to reduce in some slight measure the dimension of my travelling library. But even now I am far too optismistic about my powers of reading while on a journey. Along with the books which I know it is possible to read, I still continue to put in a few impossible volumes in the pious hope that some day, somehow, they will get read. Thick tomes have travelled with me for thousands of kilometres across the face of Europe and have returned with their secrets unviolated.”
Aldous Huxley, ‘Books for the journey’ (1925)
I’m afraid I have to admit that I’m one of those incurable travellers with the cherished illusion that “….. they will find time, in the course of their travels, to do a lot of reading” but ends up returning “….home to make the discovery that they have read something less than half a chapter….”. :p
However, I won’t be surprised that I’m not the only one here harbouring such illusions. 🙂 Which is probably why more and more readers are turning to e-readers as the ideal solution for being able to carry with them a whole library of works on their travels and yet be able to keep below the luggage limit. Then again, this might seem like we are bringing the whole village along with us on our travels instead of giving our special attention to the one companion or privilleged few, if we prefer, to share the journey with. It just wouldn’t sound quite as romantic as saying it the way A. Taylor puts it, would it?
“Anita Brookner and I are going on holiday together to St. Andrews. A couple of years back I went with Geirge Eliot to Raasay but it was not a barrel of laughs; there’s still a bookmark in my disintegrating Penguin copy of Daniel Deronda at page 289, in the middle of the chapter called ‘Maidens Choosing’, signposting where we parted company.”
A. Taylor, The List, 22-29 August 1988
And of course, having our extensive (though invisible) choice of books stored in e-readers instead of carrying the actual tomes with us, would definitely not bring about the desired effect for the books to function as how Manguel’s cousin hopes for them to.
“A cousin of mine from Buenos Aires was deeply aware that books could function as a badge, a sign of alliance, and always chose a book to take on her travels with the same care with which she chose her handbag. She would not travel with Romain Rolland because she thought it made her look too prententious, or with Agatha Christie because it made her look too vulgar. Camus was appropriate for a short trip, Cronin for a long one; a detective story by Vera Caspary or Ellery Queen was acceptable for a weekend in the country; a Graham Greene novel was suitable for travelling by ship or plane.”
Alberto Manguel, A History of Reading (1996)