I have found a interesting concept to accompany some of the books I read, especially those about travel or based on fixed locations. Virtual tourism. I have been reading Henry Shukman’s excellent Savage Pilgrims on the Road to Santa Fe, an account of his travels in New Mexico, an odyssey of a young man chasing his dreams and fleeing his own personal demons in the footsteps of D H Lawrence, an odd parallel with the last book that I read, Julian Cope’s One Three One, which also takes place partially in the footsteps of the same author.
Whilst relaying a series of magical and bizarre encounters, a flying priest, amiable cowboys and lonesome cowgirls, pueblo-dwelling hippie artists and bar room philosophers, it is the descriptions of the countryside that really stand out. Especially when he bases himself in the mountain town of Taos. His renderings of the look and physical feel of this town that mixes high alpine altitude with arid desert geography and particularly the way that it’s greenery reminded him often of his childhood in England, had me hankering for a view of the place, sometimes the words were just not enough. So Google Earth it is then.
It was fascinating to virtually walk through the town, down Kit Carson Road to the central plaza, look at the names of the shops and catch candid glimpses of people randomly caught on film from the mapping process. It is not anything like I imagined it to be. Greener for a start and between the telling pueblo architecture I could see what he meant when reminiscing about the country of his birth.
Why not try it, zoom in to street level and wander the settings of your favourite books. I have recently wandered the East London streets of Danny Baker’s biography, wandered the bridges of St Petersburg I encountered in Fading Red Light and even hovered over the tea shops and back streets of Lahore, the setting for The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Until I have the money to visit these places properly, virtual tourism is an interesting way of seeing the places featured in some of your favourite books.