Retracing Routes: Seven Authors Hit the Road
Reviewed by Richard West
In Ghost Train to the Eastern Star: On the Tracks of the Great Railway Bazaar, Paul Theroux asks, “what traveler backtracked to take the great trip again?”
“Traveler” meaning fine writer, as he lists those who never did: Graham Greene, Jan Morris, Joseph Conrad, Robert Byron, Evelyn Waugh. But before Scott Huler followed in Odysseus’s wake in No-Man's Lands: One Man's Odyssey Through The Odyssey
, more than a few writers have retraced adventures and routes well traveled by notables:
…Pilgrimages, especially the 500 miles comprising Santiago de Compostela from France across northern Spain, have long been recorded by writers. The best in my view is Jack Hitt’s Off the Road: A Modern-Day Walk Down the Pilgrim's Route into Spain.
…Masako Takeda fell in love with Emily Dickinson’s poems in Japan, became a literature professor, and investigated Dickinson’s life and poetry in his book In Search of Emily: Journeys From Japan to Amherst.
…Another poetry lover, English author and broadcaster Alan Hankinson, followed in the footsteps of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s nine-day walk around the Lake District in Coleridge Walks the Fells: A Lakeland Journey Retraced
…In August, 1773, Samuel Johnson and James Boswell traveled through the Scottish Highlands and inner Hebrides for the journey Johnson later chronicled in The Journey to the Western Islands Scotland and The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides (Penguin Classics). In the early 1990's, writer Frank Delaney followed in their footsteps in A Walk to the Western Isles: After Boswell and Johnson.
…In a replica of Captain James Cook’s 18th-century ship, writer Tony Horwitz retraces the great explorer’s voyages around the Pacific in Blue Latitudes: Boldly Going Where Captain Cook Has Gone Before.
…British novelist Graham Greene may have never retraced his steps recorded in books set in Mexico, Africa, and Panama but Julia Smith did in Traveling on the Edge: Journeys in the Footsteps of Graham Greene.
… Finally, in the late 14th century a poet joins 30 others on a pilgrimage to Thomas a Becket’s shrine in Canterbury, Kent, 60 miles southeast of London. Chaucer famously used this as a framing device of stories in The Canterbury Tales (Penguin Classics)
At the end of the 20th century, Jerry Ellis does also in Walking to Canterbury: A Modern Journey Through Chaucer's Medieval England.