Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Empty Quarter

#57 -- "Miles From Nowhere" by Dayton Duncan

#58 -- "After Yugoslavia" by Zoë Bran

Let us now praise used bookstores: more specifically, that feeling that comes with finding a book that you've never previously heard about, but that turns out to be just what you wanted. Like both of these.

In "Miles From Nowhere," Duncan travels around to the "modern frontier" -- those counties (all in the American West) with a population density below two people per square mile. This had one major impact on me: it put to rest any idea that I could live in such an area for any extended period of time. It's the kind of thing that I say sounds great when I'm stressed out, but after reading this ... no. No more romantic flights of fancy. I'd like to visit, would go nuts staying.

Which isn't to say that he paints a negative -- or even mostly negative -- picture of the people. There's a lot to admire here. He just doesn't sugarcoat it. It's often a tough, lonely life. Good anecdotes and a nice descriptive pen, plus some interesting history, and a few tips on places I should visit next time I'm back home.

"After Yugoslavia" -- yes, there's Yugoslavia books I haven't heard about. Bran's book is a post-war travel narrative, and as many books as I've read about the area, this is one of the first travelogues not directly tied into the conflict. (She visits Slovenia, which I don't think has been mentioned much in my library.) She's a friendly, likable writer, sympathetic and humorous. Not sure if she has any other books out but if so I'll probably give them a whirl.

1 comment:

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