James’s Corner

James’s Corner

When Did You Begin?

travelerstales Urazinduka ntutanga rwuba—You may get up before dawn, but destiny gets up before you.
—Kirundi proverbWhen did you begin? Was it when your parents had a roll in the hay? When your great grandparents huffed and puffed your grandparents into quickening?

Added on August 20, 2011

Publisher’s Preface: A Meander through Books and the Journeys of Others

travelerstales My favorite mountaineering book is The Mountains of My Life, by legendary Italian climber Walter Bonatti. While I love being in the mountains—it’s a rare day I don’t daydream about the Alps or the Himalayas—I am not a climber. My favorite mountaineering book is The Mountains of My Life, by legendary Italian climber Walter Bonatti.

Added on August 27, 2010

Publisher’s Preface: The Best Travel Writing 2009

travelerstales I went to see Slumdog Millionaire the other night with a friend who does rural development work in Central America, and we were both reminded of the enormous gap between the poor and Those of Us Who Really Don’t Suffer Much But Complain a Lot. It’s been over twenty years since I was in Mumbai (then Bombay), but India is engraved in the memory rather easily, and the images of the slums caused me to reflect again on our culture in the West, and our own forms of poverty: poverty of imagination, poverty of friendship, poverty of family, poverty of compassion, poverty of life in the streets.

Added on March 10, 2009

The Best Travel Writing 2008 — Publisher’s Preface

travelerstales I read Steinbeck’s East of Eden recently, a marvelous book with more well-wrought themes and characters than a dozen Oscar winners, and it got me to thinking, naturally, of Paradise. It’s what we’re all after, one way or the other, under many a flag—salvation, enlightenment, self-realization (“Be All You Can Be,” as the U.S. Army correctly exhorted), fulfillment, nirvana, heaven. From saint-in-training to suicide bomber, it’s what we do as humans, looking, looking.

Added on March 06, 2008

The Best Travel Writing 2007: Publisher’s Preface

travelerstales Travel to new places, especially those far away, is surely one of the most rewarding ways to spend time. But it is also better than just about any other activity for the purpose of grasping the paradox of human existence: your life, and everyone else’s, is only a drop of water in the ocean, but is more valuable than all the stars in the galaxy. To paraphrase a line from the movie Gladiator—“Is all of Rome worth the life of one good man?” I think most of us know the answer to that question, but travel underlines the enduring truth of the answer.

Added on February 19, 2007