Monday, February 22, 2010


Homebodies, rejoice

Just when I'm yearning to travel, hardscrabble old life brings me a book to ease the necessities of staying home. On a local book-hunt recently I picked this up for a few dollars:

Vivian Swift's illustrated memoir When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journal of Staying Put (Bloomsbury 2008). I have a small collection of published sketchbooks - memoirs with watercolors or drawings by the authors - always thinking Someday I will make one, too, so after flipping through this one in the book section at Goodwill I added it to my stack. I thought I'd like it. I didn't think I'd love it, which is what in fact happened when I read it. I started to read it, thinking the illustrations and hand-lettering were fey and charming, in a good way, then I paid attention to what she was saying and how she was saying it - funny, spot-on, melancholy enough for a melancholic like me. With hundreds of small watercolors and snippets of text, she creates minutely-observed personal portraits of the four seasons at home in her coastal Connecticut village, alongside her remembered years of world travel.

She also creates (or recognizes, really) her own private kingdoms within the village, and chronicles them with love and fine detail. One such is her micronation of Pawsylvania (if you are not a cat-lover, you may want to steer clear), in which reside "Their Highnesses the MOST SERENE AND USUALLY NAPPING Lords of Pawsylvnia Woody the Robinson and Louie I with the First Lady & Prime Minister of Civility and Decorum (me)..." (p.126) And her Acre of Earth: "My Museum of Letters is the biggest building on my Acre of Earth. I also have a Warehouse of Grudges and an Institute of All the Shades of Blue." (p.143)

As I was reading this book, filled as it is with cat-love and travel daydreams and homebody-fodder, I felt quite gleeful, and sang an invented little song to my own cat (when it's just you and the cat, most days, you end up inventing and singing little songs fairly often, I find). Here it is:

Books for fun
Books for fun
How I love you
Books for fun

(You may make up your own tune.)

But back to the book and its author - as with many other authors I dearly love, she points directly at what we must read next, as soon as we finish with her book:

"Xavier de Maistre invented a new mode of travel in 1790 while under a 42-day house arrest for duelling: ROOM TRAVEL. He wrote an 80-page book, Voyage Around My Room, treating his furniture as major tourist attractions. ROOM TRAVEL is perfect for those without the wealth or courage to voyage around the world." (p.33)

Naturally I googled this Vivian Swift, upon completion of her book. Naturally she blogs.

Thank you - I believe I am going to love her too. Kathleen
Thanks for stopping by, Kathleen - her blog is very funny, and has great advice for all the want-to-be-published (us).
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