The sweet sense of else­where

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holiday Reading Special - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

WHATa plea­sure to have sum­mer hol­i­days in our sights and to be free to in­dulge in the em­i­nently al­low­able vice of read­ing. This year I have fin­ished fewer books than usual and my fes­tive stack is fat with the likes of Colm Toibin, John Banville, Anita Desai and Tom Ke­neally. I hope they all rub along OK in the sul­try heat and gritty sand — I can’t wait to get my hands on them.

In our sum­mer read­ing spe­cial, we’re de­lighted to have AAGill, Jan Mor­ris and Pico Iyer in the mix. Mor­ris ru­mi­nates on her Booker prize-short­listed Let­ters from Hav (1985) in which she in­vented a city —‘‘I imag­ined it, im­pre­cisely, as be­ing some­where on an east­ern Mediter­ranean coast’’ — and did so with such vi­brancy and depth of de­tail that trav­ellers de­manded their agents book them in­stant pas­sage. The Booker (now the odd­sound­ing Man Booker) is an an­nual prize for fic­tion, of course, which up­set her read­ers all the more — how could she have made up some­where so seem­ingly real?

It is a fab­u­lous read and I thought of it while en­joy­ing Michael Frayn’s Skios, which is my favourite book of the year, with­out con­test, and is also set in an imag­i­nary des­ti­na­tion, but one I would adore to visit. This novel of comic hy­per­bole re­volves around mis­taken iden­ti­ties, mostly in­volv­ing play­boy Oliver Fox, set against the ridicu­lously high­brow Fred Top­pler Foun­da­tion. Can Fox, a rogue im­pos­tor, really de­liver a lec­ture on In­no­va­tion and Gov­er­nance: The Prom­ise of Sci­en­to­met­rics?

In sim­i­larly ec­cen­tric vein, the tremen­dously pompous Pro­fes­sor Doc­tor Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld has been back in Alexan­der McCall Smith’s Un­usual Uses for Olive Oil, based in the (real) Bavar­ian city of Re­gens­burg. But whether books ferry us to ac­tual or imag­ined places, the jour­ney is the thing — that un­teth­ered light­ness of trans­for­ma­tion and es­cape.

We look for­ward to bring­ing you many thou­sands of trans­port­ing words next year — we will be back on Jan­uary 19. Happy hol­i­days.

Whether books ferry us to ac­tual or imag­ined places, the jour­ney is the thing

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