My literary choices of late are probably trying to tell me something; “AA Gill is Away,” [excellent British writer musing on various places], “An Introduction to Arabic Literature” [superficial introduction to alien culture], “The Island of the Day Before” [seventeenth century Italian gets shipwrecked far away, muses on his travels] and the latest two, PJ O’Rourke’s “Eat the Rich” [excellent American writer thinks about economics with reference to the economic systems of the countries he visits], and Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s “Motorcycle Diaries” [hi Ste]. Maybe that’s why I booked those plane tickets Monday afternoon.
Anyway, to the pair at hand. El Che’s wander across South America is full of activity; 150 pages for five huge countries by motorbike and hitch-hiking cuts down on the space available for stroking the beard. Still, he gets some in, and it all seems apposite and well-considered. He comes across as confident, smart, a shade arrogant but not unjustifiably so, given how much him and his companion are able to lig off people. I can see the resemblance to the centrepice of Régis Debray’s account of Bolivia, but the latter seems much more extreme, more absolute in his convictions. The Che of these diaries probably wouln’t have ordered anyone to march barefoot in the African jungle, nor left all the medical duties to someone else just because he was the commander.
“Eat the Rich” is very well written, as is anything I’ve read by PJ O’Rourke. He visits Wall Street, Albania, Sweden, Cuba, Russia, Tanzania, Hong Kong and Shanghai and manages to present an interesting perspective on all of them; Wall Street seems frenzied, interesting, complicated, Albania frenzied, depressing and dumb. He wasn’t positive about Sweden, but that’s because it has worked out that when you’re rich (second most intense growth in the world, 1870-1960), getting rich isn’t actually that cool; Cuba seems fascinating and depressing, Russia fascinating and an angry drunk which proved that feudalism didn’t work, that monarchy didn’t work, that communism didn’t work, and is currently in the midst of proving that capitalism doesn’t work. Tanzania seems passé to me, but perhaps I read too many Empire-building books growing up; Hong Kong seems focused and Chinese and ultimately it remains to prove itself as interesting to me.
And to continue with the fashion commentary from the last entry, translucent silver lipstick is hot. Mmmm.
I’m going to the United States for three weeks from the twenty-eighth of September. That will just about avoid the biometric passports, but it precludes heading to Mexico half-way through :-/ .