Book written by Bruce Chatwin
It has to come as no surprise that I read liner notes, be they on record albums or inside CD jewel cases. I consider the movie poster and the write-ups in magazines and books. For that matter, I read book introductions and afterwords. I checked out the indicia in magazines along with the staff names and any provided background. Moreover, I used to look at the postal filing when that was included, just to see if I was one among thousands or one among millions. I am nowhere near as much of a completist these days, but other demands slowly weaned me from such obsessions. Honestly, footnotes are meant for people other than me nowadays.
It was amazing the sort of information that could be gleaned from the meanderings of people in the know. Who wrote this song? Where did the author get the idea to have the character do that? In many ways, the extras like this were simply the blogs of their day, I suppose.
In that first flourishing of literary comic books, I read a lot of Alan Moore’s work, including something called Swamp Thing. (Don’t get me started on the competitor’s version named Man-Thing– that’s a name that inspires at least five minutes of comedy gold, I assure you.) Comic books used to always include pages of text in order to fit special postal requirements for a magazine. The text included letters from fans and general commentary from whoever had the time that month (that was my impression, anyway). At one point, the editor mentioned that Moore had been inspired that issue by the writing of Bruce Chatwin. In fact, Chatwin’s travel memoir specifically contained the roots of the horror portrayed.
Considering that the comic book was a bit of supernatural storytelling, I expected to find Chatwin among the UFO spotters and Templar explainers. Color me pleasantly surprised to see him shelved among the legitimate travel writers. For that matter, paint me absorbed as I devoured his books. Ever since, you could paste his name on any cover and I have grabbed it. Perhaps old obsessions merely transform as the years pass…
Within a few years of my first encounter with his writing, Chatwin was dead. People have written about his tendency to pick up a backpack and disappear for extended travels. I can’t claim to understand his motivations, but the image of the writer always willing to run off on the next adventure has sometimes felt like a healthy reaction to the modernizing of the world. How else were we going to capture our impressions before technology invaded every hidden crevasse?
In the end, I never traveled like Chatwin, but I did recognize that if he could go halfway around the world, then I could probably make it across a few states. When I finally did go abroad, I did wander a bit more afield than some, prodded a little bit by the hope of what I might find around the next corner.
What’s it all about?
You’ve Got to Check This Out is a blog series about music, words, and all sorts of artistic matters. It started with an explanation. 67 more to go.
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