Thursday, 3 September 2015
....how it began...
Scraps of Wool is more of a celebration of travel literature than an anthology..... a celebration of what it has meant to us, the readers.
Scraps of Wool is not simply a listing directory of travel writers with little exemplar extracts. These have been published before. I want a book in which each extract is a discreet anecdote, episode, passage, that impresses on its own....that you could read aloud to an audience. These books have excited generations of travellers and been their catalyst to go somewhere themselves; I want the readers of Scraps to feel the same compulsion.
In my case it began with a poem; Mathew Arnold's Sohrab and Rustum, a glorious epic with no villains, only heroes, on the banks of the Oxus river. I developed an ambition to get there when I read it aged 17. I did so when the Russians left Tajikistan in 1990 and really got there in 2007 when I followed the river to find its source in the Afghan Pamirs.
By then I had a travel book library of hundreds of books. I had always marked in the books my favourite or best remembered passages. So when this project started I had an immediate mini collection. Sometimes I had no idea why I had marked a passage or it had lost its appeal but usually the impact was as strong.
But it was obvious that, large though my own library was, I was only just scratching the surface of travel writing.
So I started to enlist the advice and suggestions of others.... that is a big reason why I decided to use Unbound...it is crowdsourcing travellers and readers opinions as well as crowdfunding.
I now have a host of advisers...writers, reviewers, readers, Unbound subscribers. The happiest for me are those who send the name of the book plus their suggested passage for the anthology; and the happiest of that group is those that add a little sentence explaining why they remember the passage, what it made them do. I don’t want literary criticism.... all these passages speak for themselves. I do want context and interaction with the passage.
Some wondrous words have been sent and I have learned so much. The first lesson was easy to learn; it was how little I knew of the canon that is my subject.
The most valuable passages are often those that first inspired travel, like my Sohrab and Rustum, soon followed by the passage from Thesiger quoted in my video. These 'first love' passages are the stuff of which this book will be made because so often they convey the passion that is the hallmark of so much great travel writing, when we, the readers, share the writers discovery of his new world.
Henry Miller falling in love with Greece
Hemingway in Paris
Chatwin in Patagonia
Gavin Young in the Iraqi Marshes
Paul Bowles arriving for the first time in Africa
Vikram Seth descending though the Himalayas after traversing China
Please send your own ideas either here or to the Scraps website at www.scrapsofwool.com