Someone mentioned the pleasure of re-reading favorite books and that made me think of how often I return to certain touchstone volumes for emotional and literary sustenance. How certain reading experiences were seminal for me, impressed on me as strongly as peak life experiences. And so I reread a strange little collection of dog-eared volumes that seem not to even be on speaking terms with each other. My Family and Other Animals, Emma, The Writing Life, An American Childhood, Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, Travels with Alice, Bitter Lemons, The Towers of Trebizond. I like childhood memoirs by writers who were lonely children, travel writing that's funny, dysfunctional lopsided families that are funny and eccentric, and stories of desperation and loneliness that are funny. I guess if a book doesn't have humor somewhere in it -- or serious tips on the writing craft -- it just isn't going to remain on my shelf. Also descriptions of gorgeous landscapes and fascinating exotic locales. I've been to some fascinating exotic locales and never yet managed to write well about them. But I aspire. And continue to reread.
And yes, I've been there, to Jaipur. Did I write well about it? No, just some notes about the flocks of green parrots, the novelty of passing elephants in a bus, and the prevalent red stone. We moved on after one glorious night of staying in, literally, a palace, now turned into a hotel. I was too busy recovering from the previous night's dinner to tour the famous ancient Jaipur Observatory. So I missed a world landmark, thanks to "India Belly," which occupied a lot of that trip. But I do have notes. One of these days ... in the meantime, I'll reread funny, gorgeous travel memoirs, preferably ones loaded with hints about how to write well when traveling. And stay at home where I can count on the food agreeing with me. (I'm a lot like Emma's father in this respect.)