Reviews: The Literary Traveler
Excerpts From Reviews:
The Literary Traveler
… an admirable collection of finely written essays suitably blended to evoke in equal measures wonder, joy, awe, and the warm sense of belonging to a larger, universal community — one that is held together chiefly by our need to read, discuss, and reflect upon the works of artistic masters.
—Greg Herriges, author of JD: Memoir of a Time and a Journey and
The Winter Dance Party Murders
The Literary Traveler
“A Remarkable Literary Journey”
»» By Derek Alger, Managing Editor, PIF online magazine
Review also appears at Amazon.com
Great book, a wonderful journey in the company of two fine writers who take the reader on a remarkable journey, with past and present converging in a celebration of literature and the places such great works were created.
In the opening of The Literay Traveler, appropriately entitled “Itinerary,” Walter Cummins and Thomas E. Kennedy promise that the essays in this book will “freeze time and preserve experience in words and pictures as well as to open a treasure chest of literary places,” all of which are admirably accomplished.
The literary feast opens on a summer day at the Cafe de la Contrascape where Kennedy weaves the story of an enchanting day in Paris with friends, old and relatively new, popping up for drinks in celebration of the city which was home, at one time or another, to Balzac, Van Gogh, the young Rimbaud, Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Victor Hugo, Colette, and the apartment where Jim Morrison of “The Doors” died at an age too young, or maybe not, for his legacy to endure.
From there, with Cummins and Kennedy offering their personal selections of international destinations, cities, and unexpected places, The Literary Traveler, in addition to the engaging writing, provides valuable tidbits and interesting details — the kind one remembers — that are not likely to be found in any guidebooks, official or otherwise.
The essays vary, from personal impressions to tours of classic cities, solemn moments at grave sites or in awe and reverence of remarkable statues. Cummins writes about a guide in Chicago who utters all kinds of unexpected facts about people associated with the Windy City with somewhat flawed authority, while Kennedy, in celebration of James Joyce, marks stops in different cities in relation to Bloomsday, the famous June 16th, the day Leopold Bloom took his memorable journey through Dublin in 1904 in the pages of Ulysses.
The Literary Traveler is a printed version of places and locales one will undoubtedly like to visit again and again, with the book remaining as a ready benchmark where one can return to an essay on Helsinki, Zurich, Copenhagen, in the shadow of the towering majestic Alps, or the island of Mallorca, and the streets of New York City, to name a few.
Cummins and Kennedy have written a splendid book, full of charming facts, anecdotes and asides, which one will feel compelled to refer back to depending on mood, circumstances, or whether one is an experienced world traveler or simply commutes locally to work with snatches of time to read on the bus or the train.
The Literary Traveler
“Something Old, Something New”
»» By A Reader, United Kingdom
Review also appears at Amazon.co.uk
I enjoyed The Literary Traveler enormously. As well as visits to the familiar literary landmarks, the Aran Islands, Copenhagen, Dublin, London, the Greek Islands, New York and Venice, there are trips to more remote spots well off the literary beaten track.
Those familiar with Thomas E. Kennedy’s magnificent series of novels, The Copenhagen Quartet, will be aware of a writer with a marvelous sense of place. Walter Cummins, a writer new to me, more donnish in style, is a counterpoint to the exuberant Kennedy.
Look out in particular for Kennedy on Bloomsday in Dublin. He seems to have a penchant for meeting members of the Diplomatic Corps, and it is one of the encouraging facts in the book that so many ambassadors to Ireland are devotees of James Joyce. Walter Cummins is particularly acute about Venice. He writes a wonderful essay about a visit to two of London’s famous clubs, the Reform and the Athenaeum.
Among the lesser-known places, try Kennedy on a trip to the Tomba Emanuel outside Oslo, one of Norway’s best-kept erotic secrets. This wonder of Nordic sculpture is the work of Emanuel Vigeland, the younger brother of the more famous Gustav. A visit to interview JP Donleavy, the author of The Ginger Man, who lives in the Irish market town of Mullingar (mentioned in Ulysses), is illuminating. Given that Donleavy has a reputation as a recluse, and something of a curmudgeon, he is very candid about his life and his writing, and fascinating when he talks about the legal battle he had with the Olympia Press in Paris to regain the copyright of The Ginger Man.
There are essays on the Alps, the Rhine, and Helsinki. I particularly enjoyed Walter Cummins’s trip to Lisbon in search of Fernando Pessoa, author of The Book of Disquiet. This complex, fascinating writer was the creator of a number of fictional characters. One of them, Ricardo Reis, is the eponymous hero of The Year of the Death of Ricardo Reis, the novel by Portugal’s Nobel Laureate, Jose Saramago. Cummins captures wonderfully well the spirit of Lisbon, the streets and squares where Pessoa lived and worked.
There are no maps in The Literary Traveler, and that is appropriate. Herman Melville wrote, It is not drawn on any map. True places never are. Walter Cummins and Thomas E. Kennedy, two very different writers, have given us, in this collection, twenty-six true places.