Thursday, September 13, 2007

Travels with a Donkey

I feel like an old friend has moved away. I like to carry a back-up book in my basket, so that if I end up waiting for kids longer than expected, I have something to do besides fume. My recent book has been Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, by Robert Louis Stevenson; the version I have includes An Inland Voyage. It is the perfect back-up book: it is calm enough to put down, sometimes for a week or more, but vivid enough that when I went back to it, I remembered where we were and what was happening. Stevenson's writing is engaging, painting clear word-pictures of the parts of southern France he walked through with his donkey and the parts he paddled a canoe through; he strikes a good balance between showing you what he saw and telling you what he thought about what he saw. The writing is clean and straightforward, easy to read in pieces and bursts and distracting environments. And best of all, Stevenson never takes himself too seriously to laugh at the odd predicaments he gets himself in. I am a little sad to have finished the book; it will be difficult to replace it in my basket.

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