Genius loci

[Genius Loci] January 2022

1 January 2022

Bonjour from a wintery Brittany, where the morning sun doesn’t break until around 9 am and hangs low in the sky for the rest of the day. On the rare days without clouds, long shadows stretch across the ground in what seems to be a day-long golden hour, the world bathed in amber. Most often, though, gray clouds have blanketed the region.

I am sitting in Le Bacardy, a cafe-cum-bar adjacent to the Châteaubriant town hall. It still smells of cigarettes from the many years when smoking was allowed inside. American 80s music plays on the radio. A group of teenage boys suck on fluorescent-green drinks through straws and thumb their phones in silence. A man with a drinker’s nose stares at me from the bar. He will surely win this staring contest, but I’ve purchased a €1.80 café au lait, which gives me the permission to sit here in the warmth for as long as I like.

Outside, a group of friends — all home for the holidays and catching up — try to keep distance as they drink glasses of hot wine and cider. Of course, I have no friends here; none that I’ve known since childhood, at least. And while the temptation to disconnect from work and enjoy the company of others might be more enticing in France than it could be in my own hometown, I still find it hard to completely “let go.” When conversations turn to, say, local gossip or otherwise lose me, I find myself thinking about the work I should be doing. I feel anxious, guilt-stricken, idle. And then there is the pandemic.

Yet, as my wife and her old friends chat outside, here, inside the warm Le Bacardy where the man at the bar stares at me, I wonder if they — the French — ever feel the same way. I also wonder if my anxious feeling is simply my Americanness or the product of the cult of productivity that has been creeping into popular culture in recent years. In any case, we’ll be back home soon complaining about our lives and wishing we were elsewhere, not least because the on-going pandemic promises to create even more chaos in 2022.

On that happy note, I leave you with some links of interest.

Last month we published

A few “postcards” from Morocco and Spain (Postcards Newsletter) on my website
A podcast with Cal Flyn about her book Islands of Abandonment on Travel Writing World
A podcast with Graydon Hazenberg about his book Pedalling to Kailash on Travel Writing World
An author profile of Eddy L Harris on Travel Writing World
A book review of Iain Sinclair’s The Gold Machine on Travel Writing World

🎂 Travel Writing World turns 3 this month!! Please consider supporting the podcast.

🗺 Stanford’s book of the month is Time on Rock: A Climber’s Route into the Mountains by Anna Fleming. They also have a few of in-person author talks scheduled for January.

🐪 Ryan Murdock speaks with Dervla Murphy in the wake of her 90th birthday about her life of travel for the Personal Landscapes Podcast

🚲 Declan Quigley also speaks with Dervla about cycling on the We Love Cycling podcast.

👂 Jo Frances Penn speaks with Cynthia Morris about artistic Paris, and with Tom Dymond about sailing around the world on her Books and Travel Podcast.

🧭 Tim Leffel interviews Larry Habegger, editor of the publishing house Travelers’ Tales.

🏔 The Nan Shepherd Prize announced its shortlist and its winner, Marchelle Farrell for her submission Uprooting.

💀 George Saunders has launched a writing newsletter on Substack called Story Club.

🇨🇳 Noo Saro-Wiwa’s forthcoming book, Black Ghosts, will be published  by Canongate in spring 2023.

🏝 Robert Macfarlane shares the eight discs, book and luxury item he would take with him if cast away to a desert island on BBC Radio 4. Here is a summary if you can’t listen.

📚 Michael Kerr shares his 15 best books for travel lovers with The Telegraph. He also shares his travel and photo books of the year on his website, Deskbound Traveller.

⛰ Nick Hunt reviews Craig Storti’s The Hunt for Mount Everest in Literary Review.

📗 Nick also answers questions about Outlandish for The Table Read.

🗣 Monisha Rajesh discusses securing a travel book deal and more for Talking Travel Writing.

✳️ The Portico Prize 2022 shortlist has been announced.

💰 The NYT ran an article on how having millions of followers doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales. 

📖 Jane Friedman writes how publishers must help authors promote and market their books on social media.

🌺 A Search for Literary Hawaii: Paul Theroux was featured in Barron’s.

📰 Newsweek lists is “most transporting books” of 2021.

🌿 Waterstones ran a blog post featuring its favorite nature writing books of 2021.

🌎 Travel journalist and author, Shafik Megji, talks backpacking across India and South America, writing travel guide books, and more for the True Travel Podcast.

🌄 Rick Steves speaks with Paul Theroux on Travel with Rick Steves.

🪦 RIP Joan Didion.

✊ RIP bell hooks

✈️ AFAR updated their pitching guidelines for 2022

📅 A review of Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman.

🍃 Anita Sethi’s I Belong Here has been selected as best travelogue of the year in the Independent.

📸 Sergio Larrain’s mystical advice on how to become photographer from 1982 is wonderful.

👨‍💻 “Halfman, Halfbook” reviews a few travel books like On Gallows Down by Nicola Chester and Troubled Water by Jens Mühling (trans. Simon Pare).

🚀 Space Tourism and Nature Writing.

🇨🇳 A new photo book, Rooms Within China, features 100 photographs by 20 renowned contemporary Chinese photographers.

👶 A book as a “baby,” a “work of art,” and a “product.” Three ways to visualize your work.

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Writer Damian Barr speaks with Monisha Rajesh, Cal Flyn, and Alan Warner on the Big Scottish Book Club.

☮️ Tony Wheeler talks about the hippie trail.

🧘 Alexis Wright writes about the “inward migration” in apocalyptic times.

🎉 Every new year we revisit Henry Miller’s 11 commandments of writing.

😔 The case against the “trauma plot.”

🇯🇵 A dispatch from Kyoto by Pico Iyer.

Books received

🇧🇴 Ursula Pike. An Indian Among Los Indígenas. Heyday 2021.
📷 Nori Jemil. The Travel Photographer’s Way. Bradt 2021.
✈️ Steve Brock. Hidden Travel. Sublimity 2021.
🧳 Ed Davis. The Last Professional. Artemesia 2022.

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