I’ve not been researching the actual destinations of our pier trip, that’s something I can do when I get back—retro-fitting the history to whatever theories float across my transom. What I have been doing though is getting into the mindset of the travel writer, or at least the writer who travels. What I’m after is to become practised at building a feeling of a place quickly, these books do it well and they’re something like what I’m pitching for (I recommend them all):
Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 — I like Hunter S. Thompson’s journalism a lot (this piece on the Kentucky Derby is a stand-out), but the long form stuff gets a little too self obsessed for me. This account of the US Presidential election was written in Rolling Stone article sized chunks and is all the better for it.
An English Journey — JB Priestley saunters around England at a whim, talking decline of industry and a changing landscape as his themes, it could have been written this year. Beautiful prose as is expected, but there’s a real warmth, insight into, and affection for the country and it’s people.
Park and Ride — Miranda Sawyer’s travelogue through the middle class; searching for suburbia she calls it, but it’s about a certain type of particularly English ennui: Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, and how the English waste those long hours. Brown signs and white stilettos, I hope to come into contact with both on our trip.
Bad Wisdom: The Lighthouse at the Top of the World (and its harsher sequel, the even more bum-sex obsessed Wild Highway) are Bill Drummond and Mark Manning’s travel masterpieces and in a way the direct model for the two-handed way we’re going to write the book. If we can combine half as well I’ll be delighted.
Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class — I’m still not quite finished with Owen Jones’s (slightly miss-titled) book dealing with the shite handed out to the British working class since Thatcher. It’s premise is that politicians won’t let us talk about class any more, which makes “underachievement” the direct fault of people labelled “unaspirational”. Has that changed the landscape of the country right up to the edges? Probably.
The Road to Wigan Pier — no, we won’t be visiting Wigan Pier. It’s not there, nor was it ever, really. All Orwell is great, but this is his masterpiece of investigation, travel through the people as well as the landscape at its best. I happen to enjoy the slightly less discrete version to be found in his contemporary diaries, but this would be the Platonic ideal of a book I’d want to produce. If ti had more jokes.