Monday, January 10, 2011

Setting sail on a sea of words

On the weekend I finally settled down and opened up this lovely Christmas present from a very dear friend who always knows exactly what to give me: ATLANTIC.

I'm a Simon Winchester fan. I have a row of his books, well not a literal row, they would be in a row if I didn't have to shelve them in different parts of the library, because of the variety of topics, and I shelve by category not author. He first came to my attention because he wrote about two of the things I love and will read about until the pussycats come home: dictionaries and volcanoes.

I'm not a great genre fiction reader, but if I want a gentle few hours of (edifying) escapism, I can think of nothing better than grabbing a lively narrative about the eruption of Tarawera or Krakatoa. I not long ago reread my collection of Tarawera books and was delighted one day recently to hear that there was a fresh piece of research about to take place: an underwater search for what happened to the famous Pink and White Terraces! Mapping of the Lake Tarawera floor starts on the 23rd January!

I can feel a Krakatoa binge coming on, just talking about it...

Now I can get a bit restless when I'm reading Simon Winchester, excitement junkie that I can be when the topic is volcanoes or anything that can get stormy (like arguments about language...)

He's so loquacious, and erudite, and thoughtful, and he paints his pictures on such a broad canvas, that he's like one of those storytellers you come across, and at first you're impatient, wanting to hurry them up, get on with the action, until you realise for this particular blend of educator/entertainer, the meandering side roads and the back stories just HAVE to be told, and you just have to let them set the scene, even if it takes a while, so you settle in, tune yourself to the steady pace and the measured voice. It's good for me, it calms me down. And he's not that vain, egotistical sort of floor-hugger who has got everything from wikipedia, he has earned the right to be listened to, on account of some real journeys and because of his own encounters with story and storytellers.

I just Googled to find a picture of the book, and discovered that Simon Winchester has his own website, and if I wanted I could follow him on Twitter and "Like" him on Facebook!

OK OK. But I want to read this new book first. So far I have only read the Preface which is a personal introduction; his first journey across the Atlantic at a young age. And I sneaked a peek at a later chapter just to make sure he wasn't going to annoy me with any nonsense about denying climate change. Phew. He seems overly polite about the 'controversy' (from my point of view), but pretty clear about the facts, as usual. No problem there.

Anyway, Shh now, I'm reading...


Belle said...

I looked up Winchester and his book online. Atlantic does sound like a fascinating book. Right now I am reading, "Breakfast at the Exit Cafe," about a couple from Canada who drive across the United States. It is a good read.

Vanda Symon said...

I loved Atlantic- it's a great book, but oh how I wish they put in proper maps and illustrations - it would have elevated it to being a fantastic book!

The Paradoxical Cat said...

Thanks Belle, I'll look out for 'Breakfast'. I was impressed to see it has its own website and trailer!

Vanda, I agree. I was disappointed by the poor quality of the illustrations - dull and blurry - but that will be about the publisher trying to save money I guess.