30 June 2009

I have recently registered the blog spots for eight Ian Guides to cities and hope to get the time to fill them out, which sadly may mean a break from internet BBQ writing. At times my compulsion that people going somewhere don’t miss important things gets awkward, as with two occasions when people going to Paris for a few days got 16 page emails, so by putting this online I don't assign an itinerary burden to one recipient.

The new Paris guide is up and I declare it an instant classic to be printed out for the plane or the familiar armchair. My personal incentive for writing this can be found in the Montparnasse section.

The classic works of travel memoir have created a caste system in which function is assigned a lesser value. The Norton Anthology of Travel, which includes only English language essays without noting this criteria for omission, says in its introducton by Paul Fussell, whose ignorant pomposity can be seen in his criticism of Alice Notley: "Guidebooks belong to the world of journalism, and they date; travel books belong to literature, and they last."

Setting aside the fact that any Blue Guide is eternally more interesting than anything Fussell will ever write, we see why the omission of Ezra Pound's "Europe or the Setting" essay from Guide to Kulchur is necessary - it contradicts Fussell's narrow-minded assessment. The narcissistic arithmetic that so often guides the travel essay lacks the earnest insistence to let the reader see for themselves:

"You have a concentration of treasures that will need al your calf muscles, all your ankle resistance. Perugia, the gallery of the Palazzo Publico.. Ravenna, mosaics.
If any man or young lady will first get his eye-full, this ideogram of what’s what to why some great works of art are from it omitted.
Goya, yes, Goya. The best one I know is in New York.
How to see works of art? Think what the creator must perforce have felt and known before he got round to creating them...
A fugue a week for a year wd. teach even a bullhead something.
Loathe the secolo decimonono. What was good from 1830 to 1890 was a protest. It was diagnosis, it was acid, it was invocation of otherness. Chopin carried over precedent virtue."

I declare both forms infinite. We cannot map the cultural geography of the world with microscopes. I like to drink caffeine in the morning reading rail schedules for places I'm not going. I go to cities because I don't live in one and so I go to gather the new.

No comments: