Forgive me for being absent, dear readers. I’m just getting over some horrible stomach thing that one of the children brought home. I am assured that solid food is right around the corner and I won’t miss the five pounds that I’ve shed, albeit in far too violent a fashion.
The bad thing about being ill is the inability to muster the least amount of energy to put into … well, just about anything. Yes, I did manage to drag my fever-stricken self into the shower, shave and get into a new pair of pyjamas and cashmere socks, but that was about it. I have subsisted on a diet of chicken bouillon, soda crackers, water and tea.
The good thing about being forced to bed is that there is time to slow down and seriously read. If you can, I highly recommend ignoring the television and the internet for two nights to concentrate on listening to the local jazz/classical station and read. Yes, that means turning off that connected smartphone, too. It is more difficult than it sounds.
If you do follow my advice, you’ll be casting about for something to hold your attention. I’ve been lucky enough to have found two riveting books so far this season. One, a gift from friends The Architect and Corporate Creature, the other a review copy from some nice PR people.
“The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir
” by Josh Kilmer-Purcell
A word of warning. You won’t be able to put it down. The saga of the gentleman goat farmers is far too funny and insightful to dip into and put aside for another day. There are some who may object to the language, or that the author and his partner are homosexual, and that would be a shame. There isn’t anything mildly off-putting about the book in my opinion. After all, it deals with the same topic that I do: reinventing a better you. Now, life in the country sounds like a complete horror show to me. I live in a small city after all. But they make it sound not only (sort of) attainable, but desirable. It doesn’t hurt that Josh Kilmer-Purcell is a former copywriter and very funny. His story isn’t that different from Peter Mayle’s as related in “A Year in Provence.” It made me want to check in at Beekman 1802 and at least leave a “keep fighting the good fight.” I may even try to catch the television show, now that I know the backstory. A highly recommended read and it will make you laugh out loud.
“Crossing the Heart of Africa” by Julian Smith
As a younger man, I loved fiction. As I get older, I’m drawn to non. What a pleasure it is to find a non-fiction book that reads like a novel. But the best stories do, don’t they?
This one has it all — derring-do, swashbuckling, adventure travel, romance, action, tedium, introspection and a happy ending. As many of you know, I haven’t made it as far as California, but I have three weeks of travel in the Cameroonian bush detailed in my travel diary, so some of this rings true for me. The book is by a man who decided to find himself and prove that he was worthy of getting married by following in the footsteps of the first European to cross Africa from South to North, who did so for much the same reason. The British explorer, Ewart Grogan, who basically went on to establish Nairobi, is largely forgotten. I hope this book will put him back on the map, he was the last of a kind. “Crossing the Heart of Africa” will certainly establish its writer, Julian Smith, as more than just another travel article writer. Good travel books map as much of the human soul as they do the terrain and sights, and “getting away from it all” is rarely the case with so much time for introspection away from the daily grind. I can’t do the book justice. Maybe this interview will help.